Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 5 of 24

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"Anna, we're gonna get caught," Kristoff whispered as the two slipped through the servant's entrance hand in hand, loose pieces of mud and leaf debris littering the carpeted floor behind them. Anna held up her hand for Kristoff to stop, leaning around the corner directly in front of them to see if the coast was clear. She watched the patrol guard finish his walk of the corridor and disappear out of sight before dragging her husband down the narrow hallway and up an equally narrow set of servant's stairs hidden behind a mottled grey patinaed suit of armor. It was well after midnight and the two had just returned from an impromptu trip into town.

"If we didn't get caught going over the wall, we're not going to get caught sneaking back in. Plus, we got in before the guards saw us, and everyone is asleep."

"Your sister doesn't sleep," the mountain man said throwing a quick glance over his shoulder as if verbal mention of the queen would somehow conjure her.

"Contrary to popular belief, my sister does in fact sleep. She's just an early riser."

"Somehow that's not comforting."

"Oh shut up and keep moving," Anna said with mock seriousness, throwing him a quick smile.

The two continued in silence before they reached an area of the residency wing where guests usually stayed while visiting. Nine unoccupied rooms took up the hallway, yellow covered lanterns illuminating the walls and floor in small pools of warm light. Anna pulled her husband along until they reached the place the princess had been intending to take him, a broad smile starting to pull at her lips.

They stopped at the mouth of a shallow alcove inhabited by a seemingly nondescript marble statue of a female nun holding a small cross against her chest, head slightly tilted back with a faraway look on her ageless stone face. Her robes were plain, her feet were bare, she had the stereotypical halo of beaten brass attached to her head like some strange inverted crown, and Kristoff didn't have a single clue why his wife had insisted they climb the perimeter wall at midnight just to raid an herbalist's garden a few blocks from the castle for a bundle of herbs to leave at this particular statue.

"I present to you Saint Colette, patron saint of women seeking to conceive and expecting mothers," Anna said as if introducing him to a close friend.

The mountain man stepped back in order to get a better look at the statue and scratched his head, unsure of what exactly to do or say. Growing up with the trolls, Kristoff hadn't been exposed to the Catholic religion until meeting Anna, and he was still having trouble wrapping his head around all their rules, symbology, saints, and rituals. It was head spinning and a little uncomfortable for him. The trolls were elemental beings who called the earth their mother and the moon their father, both being the beginning and end to all life. They prayed to a single nameless god, the deity responsible for the creation of their Mother and Father, and to multiple spirits of land, air, sea and fire, but that was it. For Kristoff it had been enough, but being married into the royal family, subsequently marrying into their religion, he'd been expected to know at least the basics, but even that was hard to swallow at times.

"Ok, so why are we here again?" Kristoff said looking to Anna for some idea about what to do next.

"It's an old tradition my mother told me about when I was young." The princess reached into the pouch resting against her hip and pulled a bundle of herbs free. Without any preamble, she approached the statue, knelt, and kissed the nun's feet while tucking the herb bundle safely behind the statue so that passersby wouldn't see it. Then she was up on her feet again and turning towards her husband, a sheepish smile on her face.

"I never told you the legend about the Frosberg bloodline, did I?"

"I think I might have remembered that," Kristoff said with a sideways smile. Anna smiled back and turned towards the statue.

"The legend goes that, during the reign of the first Frosberg monarch, Queen Saja was unable to conceive a child. Though the king and queen tried for years they were never able to produce an heir, and there was fear that the Frosberg line would end before it even had a chance to begin. In her desperation, Saja sought the aid of a mountain shaman in secret. The woman's name was Snaer which means 'snow' in the old tongue. Snaer saw that the Queen truly wanted a child, not just to please the king or to solidify her family's rule, but to also bring happiness upon herself, so she made a deal with Saja. The Queen had to seek out six sacred herbs and bring them to her before the day's end: snakeweed, watercress, viper's bugloss, chamomile, wergulu, and sweet fern." Anna motioned to the hidden herb bundle to further illustrate her tale.

"Saja happily agreed and brought the old shaman her herbs which the woman boiled down into a paste that the Queen was to rub on her stomach for one week before trying to conceive again. Apparently it worked, because three months later the Queen was with child. But all things come at a price, and magic is not excluded. The shaman's burden for Saja was that from that point on all pregnant mothers in the Frosberg line would have to pick those same six herbs and do one of three things: burn them, offer them as an offering to a goddess of fertility, or boil them down into a paste to smear on their stomachs. Failure to do so would have dire consequences, but the old shaman never explained what those would be. So it became a tradition in my family…" Anna trailed off, her eyes wandering down the hallway towards where her sister's room was around two sets of corners. "A tradition that my mother failed to do while pregnant with Elsa."

Kristoff blinked in utter surprise and did a double take at the nun statue. Was that what Anna was doing? Giving this Catholic fertility saint an offering? The idea shook him to his core and he looked at his new wife through entirely new eyes. All this time he'd thought her rooted in her religion like all royals were. It wasn't like Anna was a pious woman, she only went to service when absolutely necessary, same with her sister, but just the idea she was participating in something as taboo as pagan superstition made him fall in love with her all over again. Suddenly she didn't seem as distant as before, like he could bridge the gap between their beliefs with a small plank of wood rather than having to build a two-mile-long bridge.

Anna stepped next to Kristoff, rubbing her shoulder with her right hand. She seemed genuinely uneasy, her body tensing as she wrapped her hands around her waist and hugged herself and the baby gently.

"I know it's just a story, just traditional superstition, but every little bit of luck helps, right?" Anna whispered.

"You think that because your mother didn't do this tradition that's the reason Elsa was born with ice powers?" Kristoff said, pulling his wife close.

"We don't know. I know Elsa's researched the legend a hundred times trying to figure out why she was born different. She's spoken with herb specialists and potion masters, researched the herbs used in the legend, even went as far as recreating the same poultice Snaer made for Saja, but nothing strange ever happened. They are just plants boiled down into a paste. She and I even tried tracking down a descendant of Snaer but none exist, so we were ultimately back to square one."

"But it's just a legend."

"All legends have some element of fact in them," Anna said looking up at Kristoff. Then she said more quietly, "I just don't want to take any chances. Whatever happens to our baby, however he or she turns out, I just want to know I did everything right."

"You've not done wrong by me or by our child, Anna. It'll be perfect because it's a part of you, not because of what rituals or spells you say," the mountain man said putting his head atop Anna's and wrapping his arms around her, reveling in how warm she was against him, "Anyway, I think it's beautiful, the tradition I mean, not you. You're about as attractive as Sven."

Anna made an outraged noise and pushed away from her husband. "To think I once found you charming! Well since my sister was convinced this was Sven's baby in the first place, I guess I'll go and seek his affections then."

The princess made to stalk off in the opposite direction, fighting to keep her supposed outraged mask in place, when Kristoff swooped in and spun her like a top, hands planted on her shoulders.

"Hey now, give a poor ice harvester a chance to apologize for being an ass. Sometimes I forget my manners," he said with a devious smile as he slid in close.

"I don't think I should even give you the chance," Anna said feigning a hurt attitude.

"You sure? I can be awfully convincing," Kristoff growled as he backed his wife into the base of the statue and began nuzzling her neck. Anna shivered and a faint gasp escaped her parted lips. She fought to keep her voice even as her husband began gently kissing the point where her neck and shoulder met, lips leaving lines of fire in their wake as he worked up to her earlobe.

"C-can you now? I'm not sure how much weight the words of a—"

She was cut off mid-sentence by Kristoff's lips connecting with hers, gently at first but growing in intensity and need with each passing second. Anna felt her body flare with heat and arch towards him as her fingers curled in his thick blond hair, her tongue exploring the familiar cavern of his mouth as his did the same with hers. She felt his wide, warm hands begin to wander down her sides until they rested firmly on her hips, and the next thing she knew her legs were around his waist, squeezing him with almost a desperate need.

"You sure you won't let me apologize?" the mountain man said in a breathy growl, his body already feeling the effect of his arousal.

"Don't let me stop you," Anna replied in an equally breathy whisper, closing her eyes and letting the sensation of his hands trailing lines of quivering fire under her short skirt and up her thighs wash over her like baptismal water. When his fingers slid home in the soft wetness between her legs it was all she could do to stop from throwing her head back and screaming.

"Oh God…oh my God…" she rasped, head resting on his shoulder, fingers curled in his hair. She was so far gone in her ecstasy she didn't even hear it coming.

"Must you do this here?"

The two lovers froze. Anna's eyes flew open and she had about half a second to realize her sister was standing on the opposite side of the narrow hall glaring at her before life came crashing back into her like a cannon ball.

"Shit!" Anna exclaimed and attempted to untangle herself from Kristoff who was doing the same awkward dance as his wife. Face as red as a cherry, he didn't have the heart to turn and face the queen, instead standing sideways while his cheeks radiated fire like a forge.

"I…umm…what are you doing up so late?" Anna asked as she slid out from behind her husband and attempted to straighten her ruffled skirt and top.

"You've been climbing the wall again," Elsa said coolly as she took in the grass and mud stains on her sister's skirt, elbows, and hands. Anna flushed a few more shades of scarlet and knew she was caught.

"We…uh…that is," Anna realized with a start that her sister was soaking wet from head to toe, her hair just beginning to dry in frizzy waves. "Why are you all wet? Is it raining outside?"

"Don't change the subject. Where were you?"

"I..I took Kristoff—"

"Over the wall and into town without a proper guard escort," Elsa said finishing her sister's sentence for her. She'd seen scrapes and grass stains like these many times before and knew exactly what her sister had been up to, and it galled her to no end. Anna had always been one for blatantly disobeying the rules of the house even when Mother and Father were alive. After the assassination attempt last year, Elsa had told her younger sister she was not allowed into town without an escort, if the queen had to have one she was going to make damn sure Anna did as well. The princess had hated the idea as much as Elsa had, and in order to get around the queen's decree, had taken up scaling the wall either with Kristoff in tow or by herself when she thought no one was watching. More often than not she was caught and reprimanded, but Elsa couldn't always be there to watch Anna, and frankly she didn't think she needed to. Her sister was well into her adult years, and it was high time she started acting like it.

Anna finally caved under Elsa's withering glare and lowered her eyes. "I took him to the herbalist's home to get herbs for…the tradition."

Elsa drew back a bit and actually looked at the statue behind her sister. Sure enough it was Saint Colette and there was a sudden new anger simmering in the queen's blood.

"You were having sex against the statue of Saint Colette?" Anna tried to open her mouth to speak, to explain that things had just gotten a little out of hand, but Elsa was already furious, her body as rigid as plank of wood. "Anna, I believe I've been quite accommodating with the two of you and your marital responsibilities, but this, this will not happen again. You cannot, and I will not, have you two rutting like animals wherever you damn well choose. If you must be together do so behind closed doors where the castle staff and I aren't liable to walk in on you!"

"You're being absolutely ridiculous," Anna sputtered, her own temper rising. "It just got a little out of hand."

"I can see that! And I have no doubt I know where his hand was," Elsa said pointing at a now mortified Kristoff who wanted nothing more than to become one with the wall beside him and fade into nothingness.

"That is none of your business," Anna said crossing her arms over her chest and staring defiantly at her sister. Enough was enough; they couldn't keep doing this absurd dance. "Elsa, this castle is my home just as much as it's yours, and I have as much right to do and say whatever the hell I please as you do. We weren't hurting anyone, there aren't any guests in this wing, the guards changed stations an hour ago, and it wasn't like I planned this in the first place! But Kristoff and I are married. We're not courting anymore, we can actually show affection in public without disgracing you or the Frosberg name, and you know what, I'm going to do just that!"

"There are people in this castle who don't want to be constantly reminded of their relationships or lack thereof!"

"I don't rightly care! I'm not going to live in fear of showing my affections like you constantly seem to do," Anna said, biting off every word and spitting them at the queen as tactfully as an embarrassed and sexually frustrated princess could manage, which wasn't much.

For half a heartbeat Elsa looked genuinely hurt by her sister's words, but the moment passed and her face darkened, cerulean blue eyes flashing like polished stones. The two lovers could feel the sudden dip in temperature as ice crept up the wall in crackling spurts behind the queen, and Anna suddenly realized she'd said too much.

"I will ask you only once to retire to your room for the rest of the evening. Onlyonce," the queen said, voice quivering with anger but face as stony as the statue peering at her from over Kristoff's shoulder.

At first Anna didn't move, too stunned to do much of anything aside from breathe. She knew she was in the wrong, but her embarrassment and exasperation had gotten the better of her, and now Elsa was angry and she never felt so helpless. Kristoff finally stirred and gently guided his wife towards their room, hands on her shoulders and head down as he passed the queen. In a last ditch effort to salvage the situation, Anna reached for her sister.

"Elsa I'm—"

But the queen turned away, closing herself off from whatever her little sister was about to say like a door slamming shut. Anna recoiled as if struck and felt tears well in her eyes.

There are people who don't want to be reminded of their relationships or lack thereof, her sister's words echoed around in Anna's skull like distant thunder. Suddenly she realized what exactly Elsa had said and it was like a knife in the heart. There was no need for reading between the lines, her sister's message was as clear as cut crystal.

I really am a selfish fool sometimes. Why did I say those things to her? Anna thought with a sad hiccup as she walked alongside her husband. She cast one last glance back at her sister who was still standing in front of the Saint Colette statue, shoulders slumped and head in her hands.

The sisters avoided each other the next day, taking their meals at different times and generally trying to stay out of the other's way as much as possible. Anna spent the majority of her time outside the castle with Kristoff, riding with him and Olaf into the mountains while Elsa remained behind in her study, shifting through the never ending piles of paperwork and setting up appointments with dignitaries. With July behind them and August already in full swing, the holiday season was fast approaching meaning parties and balls would have to be scheduled, guests would need contacting, and the mayhem that always accompanied most kingdoms around the celebratory months would begin in earnest very shortly. Elsa rubbed her temples at the thought of how much work would have to go into the planning and contemplated handing the duties off to Kai for the time being. She trusted the manservant's judgment more than her own at times and knew he would enjoy the challenge of party planning.

Sitting back in her chair and leaning her head against the padded backrest, the queen closed her eyes and tried to relax but the tension coiling the muscles of her back, neck and shoulders wouldn't leave. Her fight with Anna had plagued her the rest of the night, seeping into her dreams like a poison. She'd woken up more than once to frozen sheets and frost climbing her walls and had eventually given up on sleep, stumbling to her study and shutting herself in long before the sun peeked over the horizon. Now lack of sleep was starting to catch up with her, but no matter how much Elsa wanted to drift into the blissful arms of unconsciousness she couldn't get her mind to stop racing.

Why did I get so angry with Anna last night, Elsa thought planting her elbows on the desk and burying her face in her hands. She didn't know what had set her off; she'd been in a particularly happy mood after her talk and rain soaked run with Revel, but seeing her sister and Kristoff in the throes of their passion, both unashamed and uncaring of where they were or who was watching, had put such a sour taste in her mouth she'd felt her jaws ache.

I can't believe it, she thought with a quiet moan, realization very nearly slapping her in the face: I'm jealous.

It had never occurred to her that she might be jealous of her little sister's relationship until now. Since the beginning of their courting, Elsa had been supportive of her sister, urging her and Kristoff to spend time together and even allowing the mountain man to move into a guest room in the castle after their first year together. She loved seeing Anna happy after so many years of rebukes and rejections, but now Elsa realized with a sick twist of her stomach that under it all, under the smiles and laughs and good natured jokes, she'd been jealous of what Anna had, of the freedom she had at her fingertips. Princesses were allowed to love who they wanted with very small limitations regarding rank, but queens…they had a very limited orchard to pick from, and at times it was infuriating.

Courting and marriage had been something Elsa secretly dreamed about in her younger years, but she knew logically her dreams would never be anything more than immature fantasy. Oh there were a plethora of available bachelor princes in the world who would like nothing more than to claim her hand -she entertained no less than thirty during most Arendelle's balls- but none of the men stood up to her rigorous and very nearly untouchable standards. That was only partially the problem. The fact that Elsa still struggled with the fear of allowing someone to get close to her was the root of the matter. She'd made great strides in the years since the Great Freeze, pulling herself from her isolated shell with her sister's constant aid, but it would take more than three years of emotional healing to rewrite the scarring damage of thirteen years of isolated torment.

Sighing, Elsa rose from her desk, deciding she'd done enough work for today. She left her study and headed towards her room. Already the sun had set and the shadows in the halls were long and deep as she padded towards the familiar comfort of her royal chambers. The room was draped in blue-gray shadows as she shouldered open the door, moonlight streaming in through the huge triangular window directly across from her bed. It appeared Gerda hadn't made her rounds yet to light Elsa's wall lanterns. Unperturbed, she grabbed a slender wick from the bunches she kept in a small glass jar next to her bed, lit it with a match, and made a slow circuit of the room. Once lit, the large circular lanterns, dotting her walls like glowing overripe fruit, chased away the gloomy darkness and Elsa went about rummaging through her large walk-in closet and armoire for a suitable outfit for tonight's lesson with Revel.

Despite the trouble she'd had last night with Anna and Kristoff, Elsa had every intention of taking the Captain up on his offer for combat training. She needed to learn just like Anna had, but secretly the queen hoped the lesson would be a good distraction from her guilt. In fact, anything that could get her mind off what had transpired last night would be a blessing.

Revel paced the circular training chamber like a wolf in a cage, his critical eyes sweeping over the racks of cleaned and polished weapons that took up half the room, gleaming metal glinting in the torchlight like heat lightning. It was a nightly ritual he was compelled to complete before retiring to his quarters just off the training chamber. Inspect every weapon, no matter how small or insignificant, and make sure they were to his standard of cleanliness and readiness. Of course, he knew his men had done as ordered as they did every night, polishing and sharpening their personal weapons before storing them in neat order on their respective racks, but the Captain was a man ruled by order and repetition and tonight was no different.

Well, that's not entirely true, Revel thought as he pulled a random sword from its sheath and inspected the honed and oiled blade. He spotted a few minute nicks and sucked his teeth. Clearly he would have to speak to the owner of this sword about sparring with live personal weapons. His men could train whenever they saw fit, and the Captain encouraged them to practice on each other so long as live weapons were never used unless he was present. He'd not been asked to coach any sparring sessions, so these nicks had been made in secret. It was irritating but nothing he hadn't dealt with before, and a swift reprimand would usually bring his men to heel. Returning the sword to its sheath with a soft click, the Captain slowly walked the armory rack, buffing and polishing hilts and pommels with an old polish rag while straightening the spear shafts for the sixth time since dismissing his men to their barracks two hours ago. He knew he was being anal retentive, everything didn't have to be perfect, but he couldn't help himself. Tonight was the exception. Everything had to be perfect when the queen arrived. Everything had to be in its place.

Deciding against walking the room again, Revel took to pacing back and forth in the center of the large, chalk square that took up the majority of the chamber's floor space. He'd been wracking his brain all afternoon, trying to decide what and how he was going to teach the queen. Sure he had lesson plans already drawn up for his men, but guards usually trained as a unit, not individually. He could always refer back to the first few lessons he'd done with Anna, but he didn't know where the queen stood when it came to strength, speed, stamina, and flexibility.

Most likely a far cry better than her sister, Revel thought remembering with a smile how awkward Anna had been during their first few lessons. He tried to picture Elsa being that awkward, stumbling around and tripping over her own two feet, but couldn't. She was ever the poised and proper queen, immaculate in every way. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that training with her would be far more formal than it had been with Anna.

But none of this helps me decide what to teach the queen tonight, or how to go about breaking the ice with her.

Revel returned to his pacing, his polished boots scraping against the hard-packed floor.

He'd trained dozens of men in this wide patch of trampled-down earth, years of use and hundreds of feet shuffling across the surface pounding the light brown dirt into a compact shell where nary a footprint appeared when walked upon. But tonight he feared he'd wear a hole in the dirt with all the pacing he was doing. It wasn't like him to be this nervous before a training session, to feel like he had battle armor butterflies knocking around in his stomach. Groaning, Revel tried to find something for his hands to do but there was nothing in the chamber he hadn't already touched, shifted, straightened, polished, re-polished, tied, and untied at least a hundred times already, so he was left with nothing to do aside from stand and wait. A quick glance at the clock he kept on a narrow shelf between the dust rags and polish tins told him it was ten o'clock and his stomach turned a somersault.

This whole thing cannot be a good idea. This has got to be the worst thing I've agreed to do…

The door creaked open with a faint groan and the Captain felt his back stiffen as a cloaked figure slipped in through the small gap and quickly shut the heavy wood and metal-studded door behind it. He glimpsed vague feminine features under the large, oversized hood, the briefest flash of white-blond hair as the queen turned her back to the Captain and threw the latch on the door. Revel swallowed uneasily, heart in his throat.

Train the queen in combat, oh sure, no pressure…

"Good evening, Captain," Elsa said lowering her hood, a tight smile on her face. Her bright eyes skipped around the room once before alighting back on the Captain. He could tell from the set of her shoulders and the tightness in her face she was nervous which was somewhat comforting. At least he wasn't the only nervous one.

"Evening, Majesty," Revel said bowing at the waist. He gestured to something over her shoulder, "If you'd like, you can hang your cloak on the hook behind you next to the torch."

Elsa nodded and turned, whirling her cloak off her shoulders like only a royal could, and Revel felt his jaw hit the floor at about the same times the butterflies in his stomach turned into raging vultures. The queen had chosen to wear a well-tailored riding outfit with a few noticeable modifications. Her top was a soft-blue poet shirt, tailored to fit her slender frame, tucked into a pair of fitted black breeches that stopped just shy of her waistline. She'd chosen sensible shoes, black shin-high calfskin boots with silver embroidery around the upper lip, and her hair had been braided and pinned back in a severe bun in order to keep her long, platinum locks securely in place. Altogether she struck quite a striking figure, her clothes hugging in just the right places and showing off her curves while not being overly obvious about it, and Revel felt his face reddening.

You're a professional, damn it. Start acting like one and not some boy with a school yard crush!

"I take it from your staring I chose my outfit correctly," Elsa said catching his eye as she glanced at him over her shoulder, a smile plainly evident in her voice. Revel cleared his throat, fighting to retain some levels of dignity.

"Yes, Majesty. You're already doing a far better job than your sister."

"Oh?" Elsa turned and clapped her hands in front of her, slipping into the poised posture of a queen effortlessly. There was still a smile on her face that only grew as Revel fought to get his words out.

"During our first meeting Princess Anna wore a dress and slippers. The second day she wore a sundress but came barefoot. It took me three more tries before I gave up and had her wear the training uniform I have all recruits wear during hell week. Needless to say, she wasn't all too happy with my wardrobe choice, but she eventually learned to appreciate the freedom a pair of breeches allows."

The thought of Anna's deep frown as a pair of grey breeches and a green tunic were handed to her made Elsa laugh, and a small portion of her unease began to chip away.

"Well, I'm glad I can make things a bit easier for you. I figured maneuverability would have to outweigh style during our sessions," Elsa said, holding out her arms to emphasize her point. Revel nodded and beckoned the queen to join him in the center of the training square.

"So, what will we begin with?" she asked as her eyes scrolled over the polished, gleaming pieces of lethal steel on the racks directly in front of her.

"That…is a very good question, and one I've not quite found an answer for."

"What seems to be the problem?"

"Finding the right rhythm with which to teach you. You see, during hell week," Revel began leaning back against a tall stack of wood and iron barrels situated next to a rack bristling with polished spears. "I seek to find the hidden skills and talents in my recruits. Some men are better runners than others. Some are natural climbers. Some have better reflexes, some are massively strong, and some are cunning and lithe. It all depends on the man, and it all depends on the course I make them run. Each one is specially designed to test for certain things, but I can't very well have you running all over the castle for a week while I search out your strengths and weaknesses. Not when I can still do basic tests in here," he said and motioned with his hand at the chamber around them. Rising from his lean, he began walking the perimeter line of the training square, tapping his chin while he thought. "So the question remains, what tests will I perform on you? What are you good at, Majesty?"

"Aside from being able to scribe my signature perfectly while blindfolded…I have become quite adept at eluding your guard patrols," Elsa said with a sideways smile.

"Good! That tells me you have the gift of stealth, which means you are light on your feet," Revel said with an appreciative nod. "What else?"

"Since we're talking about being light on one's feet, I'm a capable dancer."

"As I have seen. The fact that you also know so many dances tells me you take direction well. That and you have a mind for memory, which will be a great asset while training with me. Repetition is key when learning how to fight. It all comes down to muscle memory. What else? How are you on strength?"

"Have you seen my ice castle?" Elsa said raising an eyebrow and turning in time with Revel as he paced.

"Actually I have," he admitted, slowing and eventually coming to stand next to the queen. Elsa blinked in surprise, a little shocked by his answer.

"When was this?"

"I was one of the guards who accompanied Prince Hans up North Mountain," Revel admitted quietly, eyes distant.

"You…" Elsa squinted at the Captain trying to dredge up any scrap of memory she might have of him during that terrifying battle in her ice palace. She'd not been focused on her royal guards but rather on keeping from being shot by the Weselton brothers. "I don't remember seeing you there."

"I don't imagine you would. I wasn't a Captain back then, only a lieutenant, but anyway, that's not important."

Like hell it's not, Elsa wanted to say. She didn't quite know how to feel knowing Revel had joined Hans in his attempt to bring her back from North Mountain. Had his intentions been out of loyalty for the crown or had Hans poisoned him into thinking she was the monster her kingdom needed to fear?

"I can imagine that building your ice palace took a great deal of strength and an astonishing knowledge of architecture."

Elsa tried to shrug as nonchalantly as possible, but she was having trouble moving past Revel's admission about being at her ice palace. "To be honest, the building process didn't take much strength at all, but I attribute that to magical back-build. Thirteen years of holding in my powers resulted in a four-day summer freeze and the erection of my ice palace. I don't think I'd be able to do it again. Actually, I'm fairly certain of it. Not many people realize there are limits to my power."

"I imagine your powers are much like any muscle in the body. After constant use, it and you would grow tired."

"You pretty much have the gist of it," Elsa conceded, pursing her lips and nodding. "Regardless, I've only been able to do it once and since then my magic has been less than stellar."

"Don't downplay your talents, Majesty. The fact that you built a multistoried castle entirely out of ice goes to show that you have massive talent when it comes to your powers and the understanding of advanced structural elements."

A thought suddenly struck Revel like a well-placed punch to the gut, and it was enough to nearly knock him off his feet. Of course, that was his answer. It seemed so simple, so easy, but it felt so right.

Unlike her sister, Revel knew Elsa had a different style, a different rhythm. Anna was scrappy and more of a brawler, happy to get on her hands and knees and wrestle with the men. It was an endearing quality that made the Captain view the princess as more of a little sister, and he'd trained her like she'd been a part of his family. But the queen was completely opposite. Where Anna was scrappy Elsa was poised; where Anna was more of a brawler, Elsa was like a fencer, calculating, thinking through each move before she took it. So rather than approaching her training like he had with Anna, pushing caution to the wind and diving head first into complex combat techniques, Revel would have to focus more on form and repetition. That didn't mean his lessons would be any less intense than they were with Anna, there would just be more work done on foundational skills.

"You look like you've just cracked a hundred-year-old cipher," Elsa commented, interrupting Revel's thoughts.

"Sorry, I just realized how this is going to work."

"Care to explain?"

"Here, sit," Revel said dragging a squat stool over and nearly pushing the queen down onto it. Elsa watched with cautious apprehension as Revel darted around the room pulling different things from shelves and throwing them in a heap near her, grinning and muttering to himself as he worked. She glimpsed what looked to be a roll of gray cloth, padded mitts, a handful of sandbags, rope, and from one of the far corners of the chamber, Revel drug a five-foot-tall cylindrical bag mounted on a wooden stand into the center of the training square.

"I realized, I can't teach you like I taught Anna. The two of you are not the same person, and I believe I'd be robbing you of a chance to actually learn something that could save your life. Because that's what this is all about, the ability to protect yourself and others around you."

"All right," Elsa ventured, brow scrunched with confusion.

"Just bear with me because I know this all sounds a bit strange. The way I trained Anna was very hands-on. She insisted on being treated like any other recruit, and I reluctantly obliged. A lot of our sessions were spent breaking down complex combat techniques into easily learnable chunks, as I do with my men, but there really wasn't any curriculum I followed. We pretty much just winged it most nights. Anna would tell me what she wanted to learn or asked questions, and I'd show her the technique. She would then mirror me until she got it right. There were some foundational skills I taught her, as I'll do with you, but I didn't stress them as much. I don't believe that would work for you. Your sister is a what I like to call a brawler, while you are a fencer. Your mind is your greatest asset, but you learn primarily through repetition, correct?"

Elsa nodded, feeling her head begin to spin. Where was Revel going with this strange tangent of his?

"So pretty much what I'm getting at is, I'll teach you like I'd teach a fencing student. We'll begin with the basics, build a strong foundation, and then progress at a steady pace on to more complex techniques."

"That makes…actually a lot of sense," Elsa allowed, slowly nodding.

"Wonderful!" Revel flashed her a toothy smile and clapped his hands together, his excitement barely containable. "But there is one more element I want to address. Your powers."

Elsa blinked in utter surprise and unconsciously raised her hands to her chest, her previous unease returning with a vengeance. "What do you mean?"

"Remember when I spoke earlier of talents? You have quite a few, but the one that stands out the most, the one that quite literally interacts with every facet of your life, is your power. You have a gift, Majesty—"

"I assure you it's a curse," Elsa said flatly.

"I disagree," Revel retorted, shaking his head. "Though I can see why you'd view your magic in such a negative light. But what I think you don't understand is your magic is the best survival tool you could have for one very important reason. A weapon can be taken away. A sword can be shattered, a shield can break, a spear can be split, knives can be wrestled from your hands, and skills and techniques can be forgotten. Normal people can be left powerless, but you, Majesty, you can't. Your power is a permanent part of your entire being. It lives with you, breathes with you, grows with you, and it never leaves you. When you fought the Weselton brothers in your ice palace, you demonstrated you could defend yourself with your ice. At that moment, it was your shield and sword, your armor."

"A lot of good it did me. I could hardly keep them at bay," Elsa muttered with a bitter bite to her voice. The memory still haunted her... how close those thugs had come to ending her life with just the squeeze of a trigger.

"At the time you had never used your power for anything aside from blanketing the kingdom in ice and snow and building your ice castle. Of course, when you finally used it for self-defense it was extremely raw. You were working solely on instinct. But like all new skills, practice makes perfect. Like all forms of combat, repetition is key."

"Captain," Elsa frowned, crossing her arms over her chest and turning away so that she was in profile to him. She didn't want him to see the terror in her eyes that the very thought of unleashing her magic again dragged to the surface. Using it for party tricks or minor decoration was one thing, but he was asking her to use it while learning to fight, to make her magic more lethal than it already was. "I don't doubt your teaching skills, and I don't question your intentions, but when it comes to my powers, I'm loath to use them around any other living being. I spent thirteen years in isolation from my kingdom and my family because I feared what my power could and would do. That fear was realized when I very nearly killed my sister because of my power. Now you ask me to unleash them here, in this room, while you coach me. It's a terrifying thought. I've only had control of my ice for three years, and even that is tentative at times."

Revel felt the temperature dip and moved closer to the queen. Even from the side he could tell she was petrified, but if she was going to learn she had to start by trusting him. Yes, her powers could very easily become lethal, he'd seen that with the two assassination attempts last year, but if she wanted to learn all Revel could teach her, she would have to relinquish some control over to him.

"Majesty, I understand your fears, I truly do, but if you are to learn how to protect yourself you must first learn to trust yourself. It's been three years since the Great Freeze, and I've not seen a single person harmed by your powers save for the men who tried to kill you. Three years, Majesty. You have better control of your power than you give yourself credit, but you also have to learn to trust people. I know exactly what I'm asking you to do. This isn't a game to me, and I take my request seriously. Your ice is a gift that can be shaped into so many things. I've seen its beauty first hand, and I've seen its danger, and I believe that if you choose to let me teach you what I know, to ground you in the basics of combat, that when it comes time to work with your magic you'll have better control. At least give it some thought."

Elsa turned towards Revel and he could see the tension in her face, the worry pulling at her shoulders. She was genuinely scared but there was something more there, something deeper than the fear, something akin to determination and resolve.

"And if my power becomes too much? If I can't control it and it lashes out at you?"

"I can say with utmost certainty, Queen Elsa, that your power will not harm me because you do not will it. Like I said, your magic is a part of you just like your arms and legs. Neither of those can harm me unless you command them to, and your ice is no different. Please," Revel said extending his hand, a small smile pulling at his lips, green eyes dancing in the torch light, "at least let me give you one lesson. If you're not pleased with how I teach, or if you feel this isn't something you want after all, we can stop and part ways as friends."

Elsa stared at his extended hand, weighing her options and the Captain's words. If Revel was right about her powers maybe she could finally get control of them permanently. But if he was wrong she could very easily kill him. Fear and reason warred inside her mind for what seemed like hours before reason won and she gently took his hand.

"All right, Captain. One lesson, and we'll see where we go from there."

"Excellent," Revel grinned and pulled her towards the five-foot, cylindrical bag at the center of the training square. "We will first begin with basic stance and strikes. In order to throw a decent punch one must first adopt the correct stance. Observe."

Revel positioned himself directly in front of the bag and took a small step back with his right foot while his left remained planted, toes facing the bag. Arms up in the typical boxing position, the Captain struck the bag with a resounding smack, twisting his hips as he leaned into the strike. The bag rattled on its base and Elsa could see a small depression where his fist had connected soundly with the rough material. Satisfied, he turned back towards the queen.

"Now, the common misconception when it comes to punching is that the power comes from your shoulders. That's only partially true. Really, the power comes from the slight twist of your hips when you actually execute the strike. Here, copy my stance."

Elsa obeyed and shifted back on her right foot, left foot remaining in front of her. She mirrored Revel's boxing stance as best she could, feeling for all the world like a fool as the Captain made a slow circuit around her, checking her form.

"Not bad, though your right foot is a little far back. Move it out just a bit, and you'll find that your balance is much improved."

Again Elsa obeyed and found the Captain to be right. She felt the difference immediately.

"Good, now do I need to show you how to make a proper fist?" When Elsa threw him an incredulous look he raised his hands in surrender and laughed. "It wasn't meant as an insult. There are plenty of poor fools out there who don't know how to make a proper fist and wind up breaking their hands."

"Proper enough?" she asked, raising her fist for him to inspect. Of course she knew how to make a proper fist. It was the only way to snuff out her magic when it rose too quickly into her hands.

"Yes. Now, slowly extend your arm and twist your hips at the same time." Elsa obliged and extended her arm until the knuckles of her right hand brushed the bag. "Very nice. I'm going to adjust you a bit, is that all right?"

"By all means, Captain. I am your student."

"Just making sure," Revel said, stepping up beside her and pressing on her right shoulder until it fell into a more relaxed position. Next, he lowered her curled left arm so that her forearm was protecting her face rather than her neck.

"There. Now, try it again, only this time add in a little speed."

Elsa returned to her original stance, took a breath, and struck the bag again, twisting her hips just as Revel had said. Her fist connected with a satisfying thud and she felt a small smile creep onto her face.

"Good! You remembered to twist with the strike. Now, I want you to try it one more time, but this time I want you to strike as hard as you can."

Again she returned to first stance. Drawing a nervous breath through her nose, she lashed out and struck the bag as hard as she could. The connection her fist made was jarring, shockwaves of reverberated momentum racing down her arm and exploding around her shoulder blade. At about the same time she felt a small, coin sized spark of frost bloom at the center of her right palm and jerked back in time to see a thin coating of ice dissipate across her rapidly reddening knuckles. The pain set in a second later and she winced.

"Ow, that…that hurt a little more than I expected."

"I'm sorry. I should have warned you, but I needed to see how your skin would react to my heaviest, hardest bag."

"I'm not sure I follow," Elsa frowned, shaking feeling back into her hand.

"We'll be training with all sorts of bags: heavy, light, soft, hard, smooth and rough. They all serve a purpose in my lessons, but I wanted to see how you'd react to hitting the hardest. Also, I needed to see if you bruise as easily as your sister," Revel said walking forward and taking Elsa's small hand in his. She wasn't nearly as bruised as Anna had been, which was shocking since the queen had fairer skin than her little sister, but he could see the telltale redness setting in on her second and third knuckle.

"So we will need to use the wraps," he commented, bending down and retrieving a small bundle of cloth. With the flick of his wrist the bundle unraveled into a five-foot-long strip of gray cloth two inches wide. The end he held had a loop sewn into it, and this loop he gently slid over Elsa's thumb and began wrapping, explaining as he wound the fabric. "It is always wise to wear cloth wraps while training with the bags. They help support your wrists while also cushioning your knuckles from the abrasive texture of the bags as well as the friction caused by prolonged striking. Many of my men carry lifelong scars on their knuckles from not wrapping properly."

Elsa watched with curious fascination as Revel wound the long gray fabric around her knuckles and hand before slowly working his way towards her wrist, each layer of cloth overlapping the other. She noticed as his hands came around that he bore similar scars to what he was describing, the knuckles of his right hand primarily rounded off with thick calluses.

"And anyway, we wouldn't want her Majesty's knuckles bloodied and bruised. That wouldn't be ladylike at all," Revel winked as he let her right hand fall and took up the other one, repeating what he'd done to the first.

"Oh no, we wouldn't want people to stare and point. How would the queen feel if people suddenly thought her a freak," Elsa quipped, giving Revel an exasperated look.

"Well in any case, we wouldn't want your sister asking questions," Revel said with a shrug.

"No, we most certainly don't want Anna asking questions," Elsa agreed and flexed her fingers, testing how dexterous she was with the wraps on. They were surprisingly comfortable, reminding her of a rugged pair of gloves. "I can certainly get used to wearing these," she smiled contentedly. There was just something comforting about the wraps.

"Oh trust me, within the next few months you'll come to genuinely hate them," Revel said with a wicked grin. "Now, let's begin again. Right foot back, arms up, and strike."

Elsa did just that, her smile widening with each blow. She just might come to enjoy these lessons more than she'd originally thought.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 5 of 24

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