Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 9 of 24

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Just as Elsa had predicted, it didn't take long for her sister to notice the abnormality of her right eye. The queen had just sat down for breakfast and was trying her best to appear as serine and comfortable as possible despite the fact that everything from the neck down ached like she'd been crushed under a heavy weight. Even breathing was a chore this morning, her sore ribs making their discomfort known each time her chest cavity expanded, but Elsa was anything if not a capable actress and played her royal role perfectly. That is until a still groggy Anna, who was sitting on her sister's right with Kristoff on the queen's left, glanced at the queen over the rim of her glass and spewed the contents of her mouth all over her husband.

"God above, Elsa, what happened to your eye?!" Then, to a mortified Kristoff, she said, "Sorry, that wasn't intentional."

"Yeah, I bet," he said with an irritated growl, wiping the juice from his eyes with his hands until Elsa offered him a napkin.

Damn you Revel, Elsa grumbled silently.

"What do you mean, what's wrong?" the queen inquired, giving her sister a quizzical look.

"I…your…turn and look at me full on. Yeah, half your eye is red. Did you get hit?"

"It was the most curious thing. I was walking down the hallway when a book flew out of the air and hit me in the face. Apparently we need to keep watch for books that just randomly fall from the ceiling," Elsa said attempting to hide her growing smile as she cut into her eggs.

"I told you those Bibles were dangerous, but you didn't listen," Kristoff mused, attempting to get juice out from under his eye as it became increasingly sticky as it dried.

"Bishop Arren will be so pleased to hear that I've been smacked in the head with the Holy Scripture." Elsa said, grin growing. Kristoff tried to hold back his laughter but couldn't keep it in. As loveable and kind as the Bishop was, Arren was a pious man who could quickly become preachy if given the chance to snare a listener. All three people at the table had been subjected to his ramblings, but apparently Elsa's quip was only humorous to two.

"I'm serious," Anna grumbled at the two of them, leaning over the table to get a better look and her sister's eye. "Did you get something in it?"

"No, Anna I just…sneezed too hard."

The princess gave her sister an unbelieving look and planted her elbows on either side of her plate. "You sneezed too hard. That's the story you're going with? Is that even possible?"

"Apparently so," Elsa confirmed, setting her silver utensils down on the rim of her plate and returning her sister's stare.

"Actually you can," Kristoff said venturing into the conversation with as much care as a man wading into a pond full of piranha. "I sneezed so hard once that I split the seams of my tunic up the sides."

"I attribute that to poor tailoring," Anna remarked, looking across the table at her husband.

"Really? Okay fine, remember Bezum?"

Both sisters snorted with laughter at the same time in a most undignified way. They knew the exact troll Kristoff was talking about. Bezum was a kindhearted, soft spoken troll with a horrible allergy to cotton. His condition wasn't discovered until one of the royal visits after the Great Freeze. Little Bezum had sneezed so hard after hugging Elsa and Anna he'd effectively shed his rock-like skin of mushrooms, moss, and hair in an explosion of debris that left both girls covered in forest fibers and poor Bezum practically naked by clan standards. To this day he'd not fully regrown his mushrooms or moss, having to borrow from friends.

"Alright, maybe you can sneeze too hard, but still. That looks nasty."

"Thank you for not making me self-conscious about it, Anna. I really appreciate that," Elsa sighed taking a bite of egg.

"Sorry. Does it hurt?"

"No, I didn't even notice it until I looked in the mirror this morning. It's definitely going to make my meetings this afternoon interesting."

"Maybe we should get you a patch or something," Kristoff offered shoveling his food into his mouth in great heaving bites. Elsa sighed as she watched him. Despite her best efforts, she hadn't been able to break the mountain man of his poor table manners when in the privacy of their family group.

It was Anna's turn to snort with laughter. "Elsa the Ice Pirate Queen, that's got a nice ring to it."

"As does, 'We are gathered here today to lay to rest Princess Anna, the last remaining heir of Arendelle'."

Anna gasped in mock surprise and schooled her face into a shocked expression. "You wouldn't dare."

"After your baby is born you will no longer be the only heir," Elsa said with the sweetest smile she could muster, which to the princess was just a little eerier since one of the queen's eyes was bicolored at the moment.

"Well, now I'm sufficiently unnerved," Kristoff sighed, leaning back in his chair.

"Oh stop," the queen said chuckling. "You know I'd never do anything to put your wife or your baby at risk."

"So then I can get you that eye patch?"

"If you're that willing to go mysteriously missing, yes."

Anna stuck out her tongue and sat back in her chair temporarily defeated, picking at her food until her sister had finished. "So what's on tap for today, mountain man?"

"I need to check the southern harvest site before the snow gets too thick up there to walk through. I'm sure Sven would love the chance to pull his sled."

"Care for a driving partner?"

"I…um…" Kristoff looked to the queen expectantly, but Elsa only shrugged.

"She's your wife, Kristoff. Just know that if anything happens to her or the baby your life is pretty much forfeit."

"Elsa, be nice," Anna scolded.

"It's the truth. I honestly don't want you trekking up into the mountains while pregnant, but I know if I say no you'll just do it anyway. So I'm leaving this decision up to your husband."

"Wonderful, no pressure," Kristoff exhaled, hanging his head as Anna turned expectant eyes on him. The princess waited as patiently as was possible for the energetic princess, bouncing lightly in her chair. She was always eager to hike into the mountains with her husband, enjoying the vistas and the chance to stretch her legs. Ever since becoming pregnant, Anna had to reduce her levels of adventuring for the baby's sake, spending an increasing amount of time hanging around the palace while Kristoff went about his daily duties. At first the break had been nice, but Anna was a woman who felt she had to constantly be on the move, and after the first few weeks she'd gone stir crazy. Now she practically jumped at any chance she got to leave the castle and get some much needed fresh air. It was the only part of pregnancy the princess truly disliked…aside from her infrequent morning sickness and never being able to get full.

"Alright, fine," Kristoff relented after a few silent moments. He just couldn't say no to his wife when she looked so excited. "I can get us close with Sven then we'll walk the rest of the way."

Anna whooped in triumph and jumped out of her chair. "I'll see if Gerda can pack us some food for lunch," she called over her shoulder as she dashed out of the dining room.

"Please keep an eye on her, Kristoff," Elsa said scooting her chair back and easing into a standing position.

"I always do," he replied, stepping out from behind his own chair and joining the queen as they made their way out of the dining room and into a connecting hallway.

"I know you do, I just worry about her. She's too active for her own good sometimes. I know she'd never do anything to hurt the baby, but…I don't know. Maybe I'm being to overprotective."

"You're her sister first, and her queen second. It's your job to worry about her. Hell, even I worry about Anna, but she knows her limitations."

Elsa nodded and took a deep breath, forgetting that she was supposed to breathe shallowly in order to keep the pain in check, and very nearly stumbled into Kristoff when she winced and hunched forward.

"Hey, are you alright?" Kristoff asked taking her gently by the shoulders and easing her back upright.

"I'm fine," Elsa reassured him with a quick smile. The mountain man gave her a look that pretty much told her he wasn't buying her brush off. "Honestly, I'm fine. I just…fell out of bed yesterday morning and bruised my ribs."

"That had to have been a nasty fall," Kristoff said still completely unconvinced.

"Onto the flat of my back," Elsa explained as she continued walking.

"Your luck doesn't seem to be all that good recently, Majesty. You bruise your ribs after falling out of bed; you pop the veins in your eye from sneezing to hard. I mean, this bad luck streak has really gone on for a while now, hasn't it? Sore legs, tender feet, hunched posture, small winces here and there, is your bed really that far off the ground that you keep falling out of it and hurting yourself?"

Kristoff looked back over his shoulder at the queen who had stopped walking a few steps behind. "What are you trying to get at, Kristoff?" she asked warily.

The mountain man retraced his steps and stopped just in front of his sister-in-law, keeping his voice low. "I watched the same things happen to Anna when she started sparring. It's not any of my business, I know, I'm just telling you what I've noticed."

"Has Anna noticed?" Elsa asked, heart hammering in her throat. She knew her question was as bad as an admission, but she had to know if Anna knew, all the while kicking herself mentally for not being careful enough.

"Anna's more preoccupied with planning for the baby, and driving me insane, than anything else. She's noticed a change in you, but not like I have. I saw what the training did to her, and the two of you are so much alike when you try and hide things. Oh don't get me wrong, you're much better at hiding your aches and pains. The only reason I noticed was because I had Anna as a comparison."

"Please, Kristoff don't tell—"

"I would never. Like I said, it's none of my business what you do in your free time, or who you do it with. You're the queen. You can pretty much do as you please."

"I wish that were entirely the case," Elsa sighed and continued walking. Remarkably she felt a little better knowing that someone else knew. Kristoff, though not exactly aristocratic, was as loyal and honest as a man could get, and Elsa knew her secret was safe with him so long as Anna didn't start prying.

I'll have to take extra care when I'm around her if she's already starting to notice things, Elsa thought as the two made their way towards the kitchens where an excited Anna was driving Gerda up the wall with her lunch food order.

As anticipated, the weeks of November sped by at a blinding speed as the holiday season quickly descended upon Arendelle like a festive hurricane. Townsfolk began decorating the first day of December, hauling in pine trees by the dozen and hanging wreaths and garlands of holly and mistletoe like they were going out of style. The first week of December also brought with it the first official, natural snowfall; overnight Arendelle was transformed from simple fjord kingdom into a picturesque Christmas village. Snow dusted every inch of spare ground, cloaking the trees in blankets of silvery white that shimmered in the daylight and glowed a warm yellow at night as candles were lit in windows and fires were built in the square. For most of the citizens of Arendelle, Christmas was the most celebrated time of year, but for one person in particular, the holiday season brought more than just warmth and cheer. It brought hope, joy, and a chance to finally breathe.

Elsa grinned as she watched the steadily growing flurries fall from a slate gray sky from the edge of her balcony. A cold northern wind rolled past the castle, blowing loose strands of hair out of her face and bringing with it the scent of freshly cut pine and high mountain frost. The young queen inhaled slowly, breathing in the scents of winter and feeling her magic pulse and roll inside her like a playful kitten. It was only during the winter months that Elsa felt truly in control of her powers. The colder it got the stronger her will became and the more her ice bent to her commands. Reaching out, Elsa let her powers manifest in her palm as it saw fit, not caring what form it took so long as it left her body. Bursts and curls of frost and white-silver snow joined the flurries swirling around her, and she smiled until her cheeks hurt.

"It's nice to see you smiling like that again," Anna said coming to stand next to her sister. Unlike the queen, who was wearing a simple short sleeved purple dress with a blue cotton vest, the princess wore a warm burgundy wool cloak with its silver fur trimmed hood pulled over her head, matching mittens on each hand.

"I always feel better when it snows," Elsa laughed quietly, catching flakes in her hands and making them dance.

"Do the magic, do the magic," Anna giggled matching her sister's smile. Elsa's grin broadened and she spun her hands briefly, chambering her magic like she'd done a hundred times before. With a forceful push, she threw her cohesive ball of blue arctic wonder into the sky where it exploded into glittering blue and silver flakes in the form of her personal snowflake. Immediately, the natural snow reacted to the Snow Queen's call, coming down harder and quickly blanketing the castle and the rest of the kingdom in another soft layer of white.

Anna sighed happily and linked arms with her sister, laying her cheek against Elsa's shoulder. For a while the two just leaned against one another, content watching the snow fall.

"I love the summer, but there's something so…magical about Arendelle in the winter. It's like the kingdom has a soul all its own that changes each time the seasons change."

"That is a surprisingly profound statement," Elsa said squeezing her sister's hand.

"I have my moments— Oh!" Anna jumped and looked down at her slightly swollen stomach with a look of surprise. She put her hand against the left side and jumped again, this time laughing. "I…I think I felt a kick!"

Elsa's slight concern turned into warm relief as she watched her sister feel around on her stomach for her baby's kicks.

"Ha! He did it again! Come here and feel."

"He? So you know the gender already?" Elsa teased as she laid her cool hand atop her sister's warm stomach and stood still. Sure enough, she felt a slight bump as the baby shifted in Anna's womb and smiled brightly. There was a strange magic in feeling a child, not yet fully formed, shift in its mother's stomach. The queen had hazy memories of pressing her small hands against her mother's stomach and feeling little Anna summersaulting.

"Hello there, little one," Elsa cooed softly. She didn't know if the baby had heard her or not, but it gave another feeble kick before finally finding a comfortable position and quieting down.

"I just have this feeling it's going to be a boy. Kristoff says girl, but a mother just knows," Anna said gently stroking her stomach. "I think he likes you."

"How can you tell?"

"I don't know, just a feeling, I guess," Anna replied, shrugging.

"Well, I have a feeling I'll love him or her regardless of how they feel about me. Now come on, let's get you and the little tumbler inside where it's warm," the queen said leading her sister back inside and closing the balcony doors behind her.

The snow would continue to fall for another week before tapering off, but the magic of the season had already infected the kingdom down to its core. More elaborate decorations were hung in the frosty air, and the soft sounds of church hymns could be heard drifting from the chapel most mornings, intertwining with the peal of congregational bells that echoed across the fjord. And all the while the people of Arendelle eagerly awaited the annual Yule Ball when the castle and the grounds beyond would be open to the public for one night of celebration and merriment.

The winter season certainly made the queen feel more at ease with her powers, but her sessions with Revel weren't getting any easier. In fact, they were doing the exact opposite. Now that the Captain knew she could create what he affectionately came to call will-ice, he began teaching Elsa how to form her magic into physical weapons, and how to use them in combat. His first few lessons covered basic weapons such as daggers, axes, and short swords. Elsa had to hold the real weapon in her left hand and create a carbon copy of it in the right. It wasn't a difficult task; since she could see and physically hold the original, creating a copy was as simple as exhaling. Learning how to properly use them in a fight was an entirely different matter.

As hesitant as Revel was to teach the queen how to grapple, it was imperative he teach her the different techniques of knife fighting and basic dueling. Fencing Elsa picked up fairly quickly. It was a common sport among the royals, and one that the queen was familiar with from watching her father fence when she was younger. The techniques were easily grasped, so Revel spent little time on fencing and moved on to the more hands on knife fighting and defense techniques, though they had a rocky start at the beginning due to the queen's unforeseen nervousness around daggers.

It hadn't even crossed Revel's mind until he'd walked over to the weapons rack one cold, windy evening and withdrawn a fairly large dagger from its polished sheath. He'd been talking about the benefits of different blade lengths and the folding techniques used to hone the blade into a razors edge when he felt the temperature in the room take a massive dive. Startled, Revel spun around just in time to witness most, if not all, of the color drain from Elsa's face, her eyes widening in fear.

"Elsa, what's wrong?"

Realization hit him half a second later that she wasn't looking at him but rather at the blade he'd been unconsciously flipping end-over-end in his hand. Slowly her right hand slid across her stomach and stopped directly over the year old scar hidden under the folds of her clothing, her eyes trained on a distant memory only she could see. Revel saw this, understanding hitting him like a sobering slap, and carefully replaced the dagger back on the rack with the others, silently cursing himself for his stupidity. Of course the queen would be uneasy around daggers. It had only been a year since the assassination attempt, but she'd never shown signs of anxiety or the deep rooted fear victims of malicious attacks often lived with, until now.

"Elsa, it's okay," Revel soothed and spread his hands to show he no longer carried a weapon. When she didn't stir from her trance, he took a tentative step towards her, then another, and another. Eventually he was standing directly in front of her, their bodies only a foot or so apart. This close and he could see the sweat beginning to form along her hairline and could feel the waves of cold rolling off the queen like an arctic breeze as she took breath after ragged breath. Unsure of exactly how to bring her back from the fear quickly swallowing her, Revel knelt and made sure their eyes were level.

"You're okay, Elsa, just breathe. The fear you're feeling is just an illusion; there's no danger in this room." Gently he put his hands on either side of her face, her skin shockingly cold, in an attempt to draw her focused attention away from whatever ghosts she was seeing and onto him. He let his natural warmth be an anchor for her, the feeling of his skin against hers drawing Elsa out of the cloying hands of fear. Slowly her vision returned to the present and locked onto Revel's green orbs.

"That's it, don't try and wrestle the fear into place, bend around it like you would a sandbag. It's just an illusion, keep telling yourself that. Nothing you're seeing or feeling is real."

After a few more silent moments, the queen broke free of her trance and blinked a few times, body shaking as the last dregs of adrenalin left her veins. The room swam back into focus and she became aware of the warmth of Revel's hands on either side of her face and the swelling sense of safety due to his closeness. For just a brief moment, she allowed herself to sink into the security, to lose herself in the warmth of another human body before both reason and reality snapped back all at once.

"I…I'm sorry…I don't know what just happened," she stammered, taking a step back and rubbing at her eyes. Was she crying or was that sweat? The Captain stepped back as well, reluctantly letting his hands drop to his sides while trying to ignore the tingling in his palms and fingertips.

"I do," Revel sighed. "Have you ever heard of the Warrior's Terror?"

"In passing," Elsa explained, absentmindedly rubbing her left shoulder. "My father spoke of it once."

"Do you know what it is?"

"Not really, no."

"It happens more often than you'd think, especially during campaigns. Soldiers who have been exposed to live combat often can't take the stress of killing an enemy or seeing a friend or comrade die in front of them. During the heat of battle the mind can push aside these unpleasantries, but afterword, when there isn't anyone left to fight and you're alone with your thoughts, the images of what you've seen and done come rushing back. Oftentimes soldiers suffer from vivid nightmares or crippling anxiety when around something that reminds them of combat. In more severe cases, soldiers can hallucinate and relive traumatic events from their past."

"So what just happened to me…" Elsa trailed off looking down at her hands, blue and white sparks jumping from finger to finger.

"Is a symptom of the Warrior's Terror," Revel confirmed with a slow nod of the head.

"Wonderful," Elsa mumbled scrubbing her face with her cold hands, "something more to add to my generous supply of unnatural happenings."

"There's nothing unnatural about it," Revel reassured her with a soft smile. "You'd be surprised how many people suffer from it who aren't even soldiers. Anyone who's been in a traumatic situation can have it. I would have actually been very surprised if you didn't have the Terror after what happened to you a year ago. Coming that close to death…I can't imagine a worse trauma."

"I can," Elsa whispered and shivered, the image of her sister, completely incased in glittering blue ice, hand raised to ward off the blow that had meant to kill the queen, flashed through her mind. It had been her worst fear come true, and to this day it still dogged Elsa's every step like an unwanted shadow. Anna hadn't just come close to death, she had actually died, and it was by her sister's hands. Desperate to move the conversation along and leave the horrific images behind, Elsa took another long slow breath to calm her nerves and shook the last clinging bits of anxiety from her body.

"Anyway, please continue with what you were about to say before…that happened. Something about honing a blade?"

"I don't think it would be wise to continue tonight. After an episode it's best to let the mind rest a bit."

"Revel, please just humor me tonight. I…I need…" Elsa hesitated and couldn't understand why. What did she need, and why was it becoming harder and harder to speak candidly with the Captain? Determined to not look the fool, the queen swallowed her unease and plowed on. "I need your lessons tonight. Especially after what just happened and what you explained to me. This fear within me, it's something that can be exploited should someone learn of it. I know in order to be able to protect my family from whatever may come in the future, I can't be nervous around certain weapons. One can be preferred above another, but I don't have the luxury of fearing any of them. Please, you've taught me so much, Revel. Teach me how…how to conquer my fears."

"It's not anything I can teach, Elsa," Revel said stepping forward again and cupping the side of the queen's face, not knowing how his hand had moved on its own accord. For a brief, terrifying moment he feared she would pull away from him, but she didn't move. Instead, the queen surprised him by closing her bright cerulean eyes and leaning into his palm fractionally, exhaling slowly out her nose. But the moment passed faster than Revel would have liked and she pulled back a bit, looking up at him expectantly.

"I can show you the techniques I've learned and taught my men, talk you through the fear, but it's ultimately up to you to master what frightens you."

"I understand," Elsa nodded. "Please continue with what you were going to show me this evening."

"As you wish," Revel bowed with a quick smile. "But you have to let me know if it's becoming too much."

Elsa nodded and the reluctant Captain picked up where he'd left off, unsure if it was a good idea to sweep what had just happened under the rug but seeing no other alternative. The queen was determined to keep going with her lessons despite his misgivings and the lingering unease that something wasn't quite right.

"I don't understand why I need to know the flexibility of a weapon if I have the capability of making it as hard as my will wills it," Elsa said a few days later holding a freshly formed ice dagger in her hand for Revel's inspection. It was a simple but effective weapon, the blade already razor sharp.

"It's the principal of the matter," he muttered, looking the weapon over with a critical eye. There didn't seem to be any flaw in the blade that he could see which didn't come as a surprise. Elsa's ice was always flawless, oftentimes resembling blown glass rather than frozen water. Taking the dagger from her and running his finger along the edge, Revel felt a gentle tug against his thumb as the blade slowly sliced through the layers of his skin. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that he could have shaved with this ice dagger, and it would probably shave off more hair than his straight razor. Flipping the dagger like a juggler, the Captain caught the weapon by its tip and sent it spinning down the training chamber. A dull thud a half second later let him know he'd hit the target, the will-ice dagger imbedded soundly in four inches of packed hay.

"It's unimportant," Elsa countered, watching her instructor throw her knife into the target with an almost flippant flick of the wrist. Unsurprisingly, Revel was an excellent marksman. "I could understand if I was learning how to smith a blade, but my ice is as strong as I want to make it, or as flexible. Hence why that dagger didn't shatter on impact."

"I…alright fine, you've got me there," Revel relented with a sigh. "But when we get into range weapons you will have to learn how they bend and stretch, especially if you wind up having to make a bow or crossbow. Understanding the mechanics is key, but for now you're right. There isn't any point in learning metallurgy when you can control your ice's density and flexibility."

Slowly, over a two week span the lessons advanced into projectiles just as Revel had promised, and it was here that the queen finally seemed to meet her match. She could conjure ice spikes at a reasonable distance, but anything farther than fifty feet was out of range. Or if she was able to raise the spikes out the ground, like a porcupine springing its quills, her aim and timing were off, so Revel erected the targets again and they began the frustratingly arduous task of figuring out how Elsa could project her magic farther with the same amount of lethality as she had when in close quarters combat.

Pushing her arm out to nearly full extension, Elsa released a blast of magic that formed into a squat spike half a second after leaving her hand. It was the same technique she'd used while fighting the Weselton brothers back in her ice palace three years ago, but rather than shooting her ice at the ground, which would raise a series of spikes, she channeled her magic into a cohesive, compact object. The projectile streaked down the chamber at a low arch and wound up skidding into the ground a full twenty feet from the target. She'd lost count of how many failed attempts she'd sent down the chamber, frustration ramping up every time she missed.

"You don't have enough power behind your push, that's why it's not reaching the targets," Revel said from off to the side, safely out of the range of fire. He massaged his temples with his thumb and middle finger, the headache he'd been fighting off most of the afternoon lingering behind his eyes.

"I can see that," Elsa grumbled, resetting herself for another attempt. She sank into her stance and let the bolt fly from her hand with a blast of arctic air behind it but was met with the same lackluster results.


"Getting angry isn't going to help."

"Please, for the love of God, stop talking. You're not helping by stating the obvious. I know this isn't working, but I can't figure out why! There should be enough magic behind my throw to send this damn spike sailing through the target and into the wall, but every time it leaves my hand it feel likes half my magic goes one way and the other half shoots out my palm," the queen snarled, hands clenched at her sides.

"Have you tried following the course of your magic to see where the secondary route goes?"

"Of course I have! But it happens too fast to catch, and I'm just…" Elsa ground her teeth with the effort of keeping her temper in check. She didn't have the luxury of losing control of herself with Revel in the same room.

"Should we stop for the night?"


The Captain raised his hands in mock surrender, and would have let Elsa return to her work had a thought not suddenly struck him.

"Have you ever thrown a shot put?"

The queen gave the Captain a look that spoke volumes about her growing frustration and exasperation. "When would I have ever thrown a shot put?"

"Alright, then let me rephrase. Have you ever seen anyone throw a shot put?"

"My counter question still stands," Elsa said crossing her arms over her chest.

Revel sighed, seeing he wasn't getting anywhere. "Fine, then have you at least thrown something heavy at someone. A snowball maybe or a book?"

"Both, yes."

"Ok, well that's good to know at least."

"Why did you ask?"

"Because I was curious, and I could," Revel replied with a slight tilt of the head and a quick grin, and it took all of Elsa's willpower not to haul off and smack him. Sometimes he could be so aggravating!

"Back to my original question. If you've never seen someone throw one at least let me show you what I'm talking about."

"Why does it matter? I can't see why knowing how to throw a shot put would help me get this spike into the target."

"You know very well there is a method to my madness," the Captain said arching an eyebrow.

"Fine," Elsa said icily, and motioned for him to come and stand next to her. Revel did just that, only instead of standing at her side he gently turned her until she was facing away. The queen felt a flush of heat explode across her body as Revel moved in close, his body heat like a furnace against her back, and suddenly her growing frustration dissolved into obscurity as a new, more primal emotion began to form in the back of her mind. It took biting her tongue to remain focused.

"Forgive the closeness. I can't exactly show you what I'm talking about without having you mimic me. Just, follow my body. First, spread your feet apart like you would in a striking stance."

Elsa obeyed and slipped into the familiar striking stance, left foot forward and right foot back at a slight angle.

"Good, now slightly lower your center of gravity. Wonderful, you still remember your stances."

"Any reason I would have forgotten them in five months?"

"Just making an observation. No need to get icy."

"Was that supposed to be a pun?" Elsa gaped, trying to turn towards the Captain, but he refused to let her move.

"Eyes forward."

"Ass," she mumbled under her breath.

"Agreed," Revel said trying to fight back his growing smirk. It was getting easier and easier to ruffle the queen's feathers, and he was enjoying every moment of it. "Now, back on task. Shot put throwers use momentum to throw their lead balls down the field, but it's how they throw from the chest that gave me this idea. What I want you to do is press down with your left leg and cradle your magic in your right palm next to your chest. The tighter it is to your body the better. When you release, push forward with that same arm as if shoving someone."

While speaking, Revel had gone through the motions he'd been describing, pushing Elsa's hips forward until a large majority of her weight was on the ball of her left foot. He gently grabbed her right wrist, reaching across her back to reach it, and drew it back next to her chest to demonstrate chambering her arm. Slowly he extended her arm until her elbow was at a forty five degree angle.

"That's where you release your magic. Don't snap your elbow like you have been. I think it somehow depletes the release of your power."

Pulse roaring in her ears, Elsa tried to focus on what he was showing her, but every time his skin brushed hers or his breath tickled the back of her neck she had to force back a shiver. The goosebumps racing down her arms and legs were less obvious but no less felt as her scalp and shoulders began to tingle.

"Do you understand?" Revel asked stepping away. Elsa nodded, not trusting her voice. "Good, now try to hit the target again."

Taking a steadying breath, Elsa pushed all other feelings and emotions from her mind as she sank into the cold embrace of her power. Opening her eyes, she focused on the target at the end of the chamber, the red dot marking the target center enveloping her vision. Just as Revel had said, she channeled her magic, only rather than pooling it directly into her palm she let it pool in two places, her palm and left foot. Sucking in through her nose like an archer about to release an arrow, Elsa leaned forward and pressed down hard with her foot before throwing out her chambered right arm, and her magic did two things simultaneously. First it exploded under her foot in a snowflake pattern before redirecting itself back up her leg and leaped from her palm with a crackling hiss. Not expecting there to be such a kickback, the queen stumbled backwards but was caught by the Captain and pulled upright seconds before they both heard a bang from the other side of the chamber. Startled, the two stared in fixed wonder at the foot long spike embedded in the wall, destroyed wooden target laid waste underneath it.

"Wow," he and Elsa both breathed in unison before they broke into fits of triumphant whooping, the queen throwing her arms around Revel's neck and the Captain swinging her around, arms wrapped around her slender waist.

"That was incredible! I didn't think your idea would work!"

"Truth be told, neither did I," Revel laughed, grinning from ear to ear. He looked down at the queen in his arms and it felt like his heart was going to burst from his chest. Elsa grinned back at him, her face so close to his she could feel his warm breath on her flushed cheeks. A half second later it seemed both parties realized just how close they were to one another and disentangled with mutters of 'I'm sorry' rolling from both sets of lips.

Excited to see what she'd done and desperate to hide her radiating flush, Elsa ran down the chamber. Gleefully she examined the spike, marveling how deep she'd managed to get it into solid mortar stone. Remarkably there didn't seem to be any damage done to her ice, so she grabbed ahold and attempted to pull it free. It slid out of the brick on her third try just as Revel stepped beside her, and the two realized with another stroke of shock that the spike was much longer than a foot.

"That thing's almost three feet long," Revel breathed looking at the projectile in Elsa's hands. "You pretty much embedded a three foot javelin two feet into a solid brick wall. I must say, I'm highly impressed."

"I don't understand how that time was any different from the last," Elsa said, dissipating the spike with a flick of the wrist.

"You didn't feel a difference?"

"No, it just…hmm, maybe I did feel something different. That time I felt more grounded, like I had more push behind me."

"When you pushed out, there was a snowflake that formed under your foot," Revel said pointing to the slowly melting frost snowflake marking where the queen had been standing.

"Maybe it gave me a foothold?"

"Maybe. Do you want to give it a try again? Maybe this time you could try not putting a conspicuous hole in my wall?"

Elsa snorted. "Not like you couldn't put a tapestry over it or something."

"Oh yes, wouldn't that look inconspicuous? A random, ornate tapestry hanging in a training chamber. No one would ever ask questions; no one would wonder why."

"Who said it had to be ornate? I'm sure an old blanket would do," the queen said over her shoulder as she returned to her original position. Hands on her hips, she turned back towards Revel and cocked an eyebrow, a half smile pulling at her lips. "Shall we continue or do you want to reenact the story of William Tell?"

"By all means, Majesty. Let this poor servant of yours remove himself out of your way so you can continue," Revel said with as much sarcasm as he could muster, bowing low like a stage actor as he shuffled out of the way. Elsa laughed and sent a ball of super cold air towards him with just a flick of her fingers. The Captain danced expertly out of the way, laughing and grinning as he did, and resumed his position slightly behind the queen as she readied herself again and chambered her magic in her palm and foot.

The lesson concluded an hour after Elsa had successfully landed her twenty seventh ice spike in the overstuffed target, hay and bits of burlap fibers protruding from gaps in the sack where her ice had torn through. After a bit of adjusting, she'd managed to reign in the force with which she sent her ice down the chamber so the spikes no longer embedded themselves in the wall. Much to his chagrin, Revel now had six holes he had to either fix or hide. Carefully, the queen threw on her cloak, favoring her right shoulder. She'd not anticipated the amount of kickback her power would produce when chambered as Revel had shown her, and the muscle was starting to make its discomfort known.

Just another ache to add to the rest of them, Elsa thought with a small smile, her good mood overriding any current unpleasantness. She felt she'd accomplished a lot this evening, not exactly mastering projectile ice but definitely getting a firmer grasp of what she needed to do to make it work. Her mood was so good, in fact, that when Revel approached to do his nightly goodbye ritual, bowing to the queen and holding the door open for her, she surprised him by pulling an envelope from an inner cloak pocket and handing it to him.

"What's this?" he asked taking the rich manila envelope and flipping it over to reveal the stylized snowflake of Arendelle's royal wax seal.

"I assume you have the capability to read, Captain. Open it and see," Elsa motioned with a broad smile.

Revel carefully pried off the wax seal and withdrew a perfectly folded piece of ornate paper. His eyes quickly skimmed the delicate scrawling handwriting that had undoubtedly come from the queen's own hand.

"This is a personal invitation to…the Yule Ball," Revel said looking over the top of the paper at Elsa, his eyebrows shooting up into his hairline. The annual Yule Ball was a prestigious affair, and only a lucky few were invited to share in the festivities with the Arendelle royal family. That wasn't to say the queen and her sister didn't make painful strides to ensure that the entire kingdom joined in on the holiday celebration, but the Yule Ball was held after the more common festivities had ended Christmas Eve and was invitation only. It was an invitation Captain Revel hadn't been expecting to receive from anyone, especially personally from the queen.

"Very perceptive, Revel. The details of the ball are listed further down."


"Is something wrong?" Elsa asked cocking an eyebrow.

"No, it's just…are you sure you want me in attendance?"

"I wouldn't have just given you that invitation had I not," the queen said with a confused look. "If you would prefer not to come—"

"No!" Revel interjected a little louder than planned and swore inwardly. Clearing his throat he tried again. "I mean, no, I'd love to come. I just didn't expect a personal invitation. Usually I'm on duty that night, so it will be strange walking amongst the nobles."

"You did it for my sister's wedding."

"I did, didn't I?" Revel smiled and suddenly felt the all too familiar explosion of battle armor butterflies in his stomach. "Well then, I will gladly attend your ball, Majesty. And perhaps you will save at least one dance for your instructor?"

Elsa laughed and felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She'd been dreading giving Revel the invitation, and when he'd seemed confused and hesitant at first it took every ounce of will to keep from bolting out the door and hiding her embarrassment in the shadows.

"I look forward to seeing how you perform on the dance floor."

It was Revel's turn to laugh as he bowed and reached for the door handle. "You doubt my skill?"

"Why, not at all," Elsa gasped with mock indignation. "I just recall that you were dancing with a Duke's daughter the last time I saw you in the ballroom. If you dance with me, you'll be dancing with a queen."

"Does station have anything to do with skill or ability?"

"Oh of course not, but where a Duke's daughter has been taught the basics of most urban dance, a woman of my station has had access to a much broader spectrum. To put it simply, I don't think you'll be able to keep up, Captain."

"Is that a challenge?" Revel inquired with a broad grin.

Elsa shrugged but was unable to hide her own smile. "Take it as you will. You have two weeks to practice. Good night, Captain."

The queen woke with a start when something large and heavy landed across her legs, causing her bed to bounce fractionally. Sitting up with a gasp, she attempted to backpedal from whatever was weighing her feet down, mind still foggy with sleep. Bleary eyed, she blinked in the semi-darkness of her room, weak shafts of light coming in through the crack in the curtain covering her large triangular window. A hundred thoughts flashed through her mind, but her lips only managed to fumble around one as she looked down at her legs.

"What in God's name…Anna? What are you doing?"

"Good morning!" Anna exclaimed with a cheery smile that lit up her rosy face and practically made her bright blue eyes shine. "Wake up, wake up, wake up! It's time to get up!"

"If the sky's not awake then I'm not awake," Elsa slurred, scrubbing her face with her hands. Her internal clock told her she had at least another hour of sleep before getting up.

"The sun's been up for hours now! Come on, we need to get ready!"

"Wait, what time is it?"

Anna squinted at the small clock on her sister's dresser. "Six ten in the morning."

The queen groaned and flopped back down into the blissful comfort of her feather pillows and threw an arm over her eyes, unbraided hair fanning out around her. Weren't the roles supposed to be reversed? Wasn't it usually her dragging Anna out of bed?

"Anna, dear, we have a full six hours before any of the guests start arriving."

"I know! But I want to get started decorating as soon as possible," Anna said pulling herself up into a sitting position and very nearly bouncing with excitement. Christmas Eve was her favorite holiday, save for Christmas Day. It was the only time of year she could run around the palace at full tilt hanging decorations and planning the celebration that would take place that afternoon with the town's people.

"Why don't you have Kristoff help you, or better yet, have Olaf decorate, and let your poor sister get a few more hours of sleep."

"Because it's not the same without you, and Olaf would come and wake you up himself if given the chance," Anna pointed out, flopping on her back next to her sister, hand on her swollen belly to help steady herself.

Elsa peeked out from under her arm at her sister, unable to keep a smile off her face. Anna was practically vibrating with eagerness and holiday cheer and it was apparently infectious. The princess saw her looking and snuggled closer.

"Please come and decorate with us. Please?" When the queen didn't budge, Anna resorted to more mischievous tactics and firmly poked Elsa in the side just below her ribcage. The queen gave a startled squeak and shifted fractionally. With a grin so wide her face was starting to ache, Anna poked her sister again, this time in a quick succession of three. Elsa all but fell out of bed, fighting back giggles as she rolled away.

"That's not fair, you know where I'm ticklish!"

"Which is why I'm doing it!" Anna cackled and lunged at her older sister, catching her with both hands and wriggling her fingers like she would if scratching Sven's muzzle. Elsa let out a sound somewhere between a scream and a laugh and tried to twist away, but the princess had her pinned and was a relentless foe.

"Alright, alright! Stop tickling me, and I'll get out of bed!"

"Ha!" Anna immediately relented and sat back with a satisfied smile. "Works every time."

"So does this," Elsa said planting her right hand atop Anna's head and letting her magic loose in a burst of frigid air. She'd done this enough times to know where to send her magic, and a split second later Anna's hair was completely frozen in place.

"Oh really? Really?!" Anna protested, grabbing hold of one of her braids only to find it as unyielding as stone. "It took me forever to get my hair braided this morning! Unfreeze me!"

"No, I think you look better this way," Elsa beamed, throwing her tangle of covers back and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She jumped away when Anna tried to grab at her and quickly headed for her large walk-in closet.

"It's going to take hours for this to unfreeze!"

"Not if you sit by the fire it won't," Elsa said from inside her closet.

"Please, Elsa!" Anna pleaded attempting to follow her sister only to be met with a locked door.

"You're the one who woke me up a full six hours before guests even start arriving."

"You would have been up in an hour anyway!" Anna pointed out, pounding on the thin wood with the flat of her palm. "You said there'd be no more locked doors between us!"

"Room doors, not dressing room doors. Can't a woman get a little privacy?"

Anna could hear the laughter in her sister's voice and huffed, tentatively touching the top of her head. Her hair was locked down under a glass smooth sheet of ice that resembled a helmet with two long braids hanging off the sides. A knock at the room door startled the princess, and she quickly walked over and pulled the heavy white door open. Kristoff stood in the hallway, yawning and rubbing his face, but his eyebrows shot into his hairline when he saw Anna. Wisely he attempted not to laugh, stifling a string of giggles bubbling into his throat.

"Not a word from you," Anna said darkly stepping out into the hallway.

"I told you it was a bad idea to wake her up early," the mountain man said with a grin. He poked the side of Anna's head and chuckled. "I looks like you're wearing a hair helmet."

"This isn't funny!"

"You're right; it's hysterical."

Anna pushed him and crossed her arms over her chest, frowning. "I just wanted to start decorating as soon as possible."

"Well, why don't we let her Majesty join us when she's ready? You and I can get started right after I eat something. You should eat too."

"After the bout of morning sickness I had just a little while ago, I'm not very hungry."

"At least try and eat something. The physician said you should eat at least twice a day if you can," Kristoff said putting his arm around is pregnant wife's shoulders and guiding her towards the kitchens, all the while trying not to laugh at her unmoving, icy blue hair.

As predicted, Elsa joined her sister and Kristoff a half hour later after having thrown on a comfortable purple dress and a black suede bodice with purple and silver embroidery. Her hair was done in her now customary Dutch braid slung over her left shoulder, glittering snowflakes carefully pinned in place along the length of the braid.

"Good morning," Elsa greeted, taking her place at the head of the table in the dining room. Kristoff smiled and offered her a good morning as well, but Anna seemed more interested in her toast than the queen.

"Oh Anna, stop pouting," Elsa chuckled.

"My head's cold and there's ice water dripping down my back," the princess grumbled in response. Elsa rolled her eyes and dispersed the ice covering her sister's head with a flick of her wrist.

"There, is that better?"

"Head's still wet," Anna groused pursing her lips.

"Well, until I master the element of fire, I can't help you there. Maybe Kristoff can blow on it for you and dry you off."

That seemed to elicit a response from the princess who cracked a slight smile at her sister's suggestion. The three ate their small breakfasts quickly before setting to work decorating the castle like they'd done for the past three Christmases. It was a tradition the royal sisters' had grown up with. Every Christmas Eve, the girls would join their mother and father in drenching the castle in holiday décor ranging from wreaths to endless strands of garland to handmade ornaments and decorative candles. A pine tree was always brought in by the royal woodsmen and erected in the dining room next to the large fireplace. Elsa and Anna took turns placing ornaments all over the tree until it practically sagged under the weight, then it was off to bed so Saint Nicholas would come and leave them gifts. The tradition, however, had fallen into disuse after the late King and Queen's death, neither sister really feeling the pull of the holidays. After the Great Freeze, Anna had rekindled the tradition, and it had grown exponentially more intricate ever since.

It had ultimately been Anna's idea to include the townspeople in their celebration too. The Christmas directly following the Great Freeze, the princess had approached her sister with the idea of opening up the castle courtyard and Great Hall to the public, especially Arendelle's children. She'd suggested finding the tallest, largest pine tree in the mountains surrounding the city and bringing it back to the castle for the town's children to come and decorate. Anna reasoned it was a way for the people of Arendelle to get to know their mysterious icy monarch while also getting Elsa used to public interaction. The queen was hesitant at first, but as always her sister was persuasive and Elsa agreed to open the gates and allow the public to enter.

That first Christmas with the children had been eye opening for the queen. She'd expected no one to show for the event, their fear keeping them as far from the Snow Queen as possible, but Elsa couldn't have been more wrong. At noon the gates opened and at least three hundred people made the short walk over the castle bridge to the courtyard and gathered there in an excited cluster. The queen could see from where she stood on the steps next to her sister, Kristoff, and a practically vibrating Olaf, that many of the children and their parents had brought their own ornaments. Those who didn't have anything still looked on excitedly as their queen said a few words, mostly thanking them for coming and wishing them a happy holiday, before stepping aside and opening the castle doors with the flick of her wrist. Unbeknownst to the public, Elsa had iced the hinges in order to control them, giving the already electric moment a boost of stage magic. With eager whoops and shouts, the children poured into the Great Hall and surrounded the twenty foot Christmas tree dusted in a light layer of frost and crowned with a massive ice snowflake at its peak.

And so the first tree decorating event began, Kristoff and Anna venturing up the wooden ladders secured to the tree to hang ornaments while Elsa and Olaf sat at the base helping the few children without ornaments make their own. Elsa could still remember quite vividly the first child she'd made an ice ornament for. She'd been a young girl about seven or eight whose family didn't have enough money to buy their own ornaments.

"I'm sorry, Majesty, I didn't bring anything with me," the little girl said sheepishly, staring at her feet while she spoke. "Can I still watch them decorate?"

Elsa had knelt in front of the child and lifted her head gently, a wide smile on her face. "Of course you can little one, but you should still have an ornament of your own. Tell me, what's your favorite animal?"

The little girl blushed furiously and kicked her feet. "I always liked bears because my Papa tells me stories about the Bear Queen in Scotland who talks to will-o-wisps."

"Well, a bear I can certainly do," Elsa said and held out her palm for the little girl to see. Swallowing the lump of unease growing in her throat -this was, after all, the first time she'd be using her magic out in the open since thawing her kingdom- the queen cupped her left hand over her right and let her magic pool between her palms, closing her eyes briefly to concentrate on what she wanted her ice to form into. Upon opening her eyes, Elsa slowly pulled her palms apart, revealing tiny blue and silver flakes and fractals swirling like a dervish. With the slightest push from her mind, the swirling ball of magic took form, quickly becoming an ornate bear standing on its hind legs. Blowing gently on the ice sculpture, the queen removed the last shreds of her magic before offering the little girl her ornament.

For half a heartbeat the little girl didn't move, just stared in wide eyed wonder at the ice sculpture. Then with shaking hands she reached out and gently picked up the bear, turning it over and over, inspecting every crevice and sculptural line. When she looked back at Elsa the queen was shocked to see tears in her eyes.

"What's wrong, little one?" Elsa asked in concern.

"No one's ever made me something so pretty," the little girl whispered before breaking free of her trance and throwing her arms around the queen's neck. Startled, Elsa drew back but the little girl clung on, tightening her grip. It was at that moment that the queen felt two things simultaneously. One was the complete shattering of her previously felt fear about how the town's folk would react to her magic, and two was an explosion of such profound warmth in her chest she felt tears well in her eyes as she hugged the little girl back.

"You're welcome, little one."

"My name's Sonja," the little girl said pulling away and wiping the tears from her eyes.

"You're welcome, Sonja. You can keep that ornament if you'd like. I can always make more."

"Can you make more for the rest of us?" Sonja asked with a hopeful smile.

"Rest of you?" Elsa asked, brow creasing in confusion.

"There are a bunch of people in the back who don't have ornaments. Can you make them some too?"

The queen smiled and told Sonja to go and round up all the children who didn't have ornaments. She sent Olaf to help and quickly explained to Anna what was going on. Happy to help, and relieved to see her sister finally opening up, the princess joined Olaf and brought the sheepish children up so that Elsa could make them an ornament. Sonja at her side, the queen went from child to child and helped them create a unique piece of art to hang on the tree, and by the end of the afternoon the great pine shimmered with so many glass smooth ornaments it looked like it was nearly encased in ice.

That had been the first year. The tree decorating event had only grown as the years marched on. Now, not only did the children of Arendelle decorate the massive pine tree in the Great Hall, they also got to enjoy a small ball of their own, complete with food and games to entertain both children and adults. The celebration lasted from noon till four in the afternoon when the party moved exclusively to the courtyard so that the servant staff could give the castle a quick cleaning and resetting before the more prestigious event of the night, the Yule Ball, began at six.

This year's tree decorating event went off without a hitch with nearly four hundred people all gathering afterword in the ballroom for refreshments and merriment. The royal sisters made a couple circuits around the room, talking with various people and joining in a few games before departing and letting the festivities continue without them. At four, the ballroom and Great Hall were cleared, all four hundred people herded into the courtyard where more games were erected along with a scattering of mobile food stalls from the wharf and hot beverages provided by the castle staff. At the behest of Kai, the ballroom and all rooms on the lower level of the castle were cleaned and reset. At five forty five sharp the first carriage arrived, a man and woman dressed in courtly attire stepping primly from their vehicle and walking arm-in-arm into the castle Great Hall, signaling that the Yule Ball was now underway. By six there were at least a hundred guests gathered in the ballroom and more arriving every couple of minutes, invitations in hand. When the queen and her sister finally made their way into the ballroom, their arrival announced by Kai, the Yule Ball began in earnest, music filling the hall and drifting into the courtyard and the darkness beyond.

Revel fidgeted with his cufflink for the fourth time since arriving at the mouth of the hallway leading to the ballroom, knowing he was extraordinarily late. The ball had begun almost two and a half hours ago, and though fashionable tardiness was the norm amongst the noble class, Captain Revel usually prided himself on his punctuality…until this evening. He could make up the excuse that guard duties had prevented him from leaving early, that important papers needed signing, that there'd been a mix up in the rotation schedule that needed reconciling before two of his men came to blows, but all of that had only taken an hour to accomplish. The rest of his time Revel had spent pacing the length of his private chambers, nervous as a man on his wedding day, the ever constant rattle of his battle armor butterflies knocking around in his stomach.

As he approached the ballroom, Revel could hear the distant chatter of voices and the tinkling of glasses mingling with the gentle lilt of an orchestra coming from the warmly lit room. Nervously he unbuttoned and re-buttoned his cuffs, trying his best to get them as lined up as possible. Only slightly satisfied with his final adjustment, he moved to straightening his collar and tugging the nonexistent wrinkles from his dark gray jacket, unsure why he was fretting like a young lordling at his first dance.

Because, idiot, you were a fool and asked the queen for a dance, he begrudgingly admitted to himself, absentmindedly running a hand through his freshly oiled hair. Like the last ball he'd attended, Revel decided to wear his hair down rather than slicked back, as was his habit when in his Captain's uniform. Dark curly locks fell to just below his chin, framing his strong jaw and neck in a curtain of chocolate brown. He'd allowed the coarse stubble along his chin and jaw to grow in fractionally along with a slight dusting of brown hair creeping across his upper lip. His neck he'd shaved clean that evening, taking painstaking measures to make sure the straight razor did its job without leaving behind unwanted redness. Usually the Captain didn't put such effort or thought into his looks, but tonight was different. Tonight he'd be dancing with the queen, if she was still willing, and the thought of her rejection or acceptance was utterly terrifying. Again he swallowed the lump in his throat, fingers working under his stiff collar as he tried to breathe.

"Well, don't you look the sight of a fine pampered noble."

Revel jumped slightly and turned to find Sigmund standing in a shallow nook opposite him, ceremonial spear in hand and a gleaming rapier strapped to his left hip. The big guard took up most of the alcove, his broad shoulders nearly scraping the walls on either side of him.

"As shocking as it seems, I do have the ability to clean up rather nicely," the Captain said with an easy smile that didn't reach his eyes. He approached the big guard and they clasped forearms. "I didn't know you were on duty this evening."

"I took Sebastian's shift so he could be at home with his wife."

"I'll be sure to compensate you for your troubles," Revel said making a mental note to double Sigmund's pay for the evening and giving him an extra day off.

"What you gave us is compensation enough," Sigmund said with a broad smile that showed off the gap between his teeth. Revel looked at him curiously, not understanding what he was taking about, but, before he could ask, the big guard continued speaking.

"You look like a man about to ask a woman he fancies to dance."

"I look like a man preparing to weave his way through the precarious forest of nobles like I should know what the hell I'm doing," Revel retorted looking down the hallway and through the open double doors at the couples he could see spinning on the dance floor.

"Never was good at that game, but, then again, when you come from the common class fancy things like balls aren't really within your reach," Sigmund sniffed and leaned against his spear.

Ah, Revel thought with a sigh, I thought I sensed a bit of jealousy here.

It was no great secret that a man raised to the level of guard Captain was allowed to indulge in the finer aspects of court life. Though still counted as a commoner, Revel could attend the balls and parties thrown by the noble class so long as he was invited. It was a perk the Captain didn't often indulge in, preferring to live as humbly and unobtrusive as possible, but recently that had been difficult when the party invitations had come directly from the Queen and Princess.

"I don't honestly think anyone is," Revel sighed.

"Well regardless, if your eyes are set on a particular woman, you may want to remind yourself that you're a eunuch," the big guard said with a sly grin.

Revel scowled. He'd heard that tired old joke for years, and it was no easier to swallow now than it was back when his men started making cracks about his lack of sexual diversity. He knew it was all in good fun, men had always and would always compare stories of their sexual escapades like comparing badges of honor, but the Captain couldn't help but feel oddly alienated because of his choice to distance himself from common romance.

"Just because I'm not into chronic courting and the occasional whoring like the rest of my bachelor guards doesn't mean I don't have the capability of pleasing a woman."

"Hey, I didn't come up with the nickname," Sigmund chuckled, still leaning on his spear.

Deciding to end the conversation, Revel nodded and bid Sigmund a good evening before making his way down the long hallway, each step pulling at his legs as if he wore iron shackles around each ankle. Just before he entered the ballroom, a portly, redheaded man dressed in an impeccable navy blue suit with a purple sash stepped around the corner.

"Good evening, Kai," Revel greeted cheerily, hoping to God the manservant couldn't see the line of sweat starting to form along his hairline.

"Good evening, Captain Revel," Kai replied with a shallow bow. "I trust you have your invitation?"

"Of course," Revel said producing his invitation with a flourish that would have made a court magician proud. Kai took the piece of ornate paper, scanned it briefly, then stepped aside to let him enter.

"Merry Christmas, Captain. Please, enjoy the ball."

Revel nodded appreciatively before stepping over the threshold with as much trepidation as a man preparing to jump off a cliff, and waded into the sea of at least three hundred people, searching for an island he didn't know even existed. He'd just waded through the first press of bodies, high noble lords entertaining groups of giggling high noble ladies, when a hand alighted gently on his shoulder. Heart in his throat, Revel turned to find a familiar yet unwanted face looking back at him, Duke Wellmore's daughter grinning toothily.

"Why, Captain Revel, I hadn't thought to see you tonight."

Revel immediately took the Lady's hand and ducked into an impeccable bow. "Good evening, Lady Genora, and merry Christmas. It's a pleasure to see you this evening."

Lady Genora giggled and pressed white gloved fingers against her small red lips, attempting to hide her mirth. "Merry Christmas to you too as well. Are you here for work or pleasure, Captain?"

"Thankfully, this evening, I am here for pleasure," Revel said trying to hide his irritation. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy speaking with the few noble acquaintances he'd made over the years, but Lady Genora had taken quite a liking to the Captain and sought him out at every event he attended, which were few and far between. She always wanted to dance and attempted on more than one occasion to regale him with stories of her father's seemingly endless wealth and political pull. Forever the gentleman, even though it galled him at times, Revel would accept her invitation to dance and listen to her boastings, determined not to insult the Lady but wishing all the while for a chance to escape.

"Then, if it's pleasure you are seeking, may I ask for your hand in this dance?" Lady Genora inquired with a wide smile.

Cursing inwardly, Revel schooled his face into a polite and pleasant mask as he nodded and took the Lady's hand, leading her into the middle of the dance floor. The orchestra struck up a lively tune, a three step most nobles knew by heart, and the Captain took the lead, one hand on Lady Genora's waist and the other lightly clasping her extended right hand. Just before he was about to swing the Duke's daughter into the first stages of the dance, Revel looked over his left shoulder and felt his heart skip a beat.

Elsa stood near a raised dais where her throne resided, speaking to her sister and a few unrecognizable noblemen. To say the queen was a breathtaking sight would have been a gross understatement. She wore a pale blue dress of thin glittering material that hugged every curve of her body with almost teasing snugness. A subtle slit up the right leg, stopping just above her knee, allowed the fabric to flow easily around her legs as she moved, and Revel realized with a thrill of excitement that Elsa had chosen this dress for the sole purpose of dance. Ornate crystal straps, most likely made from ice, held the dress firmly in place across her shoulders as the fabric dipped into a low neckline which showed off the queen's pale chest and ample bust. As if not to be outdone by her dress, her thick platinum hair had been brushed back but left unbraided, pinned in place with numerous glittering snowflake charms that caught the candle light and flashed like bottled fire.

As if Elsa possessed some supernatural ability to tell when someone was watching her, she turned and locked eyes with the Captain from half way across the room, and he felt his body explode into a thousand pins and needles. She still wore a smile from the conversation she was having with the noblemen around her, but her eyes were as sharp as blue tourmaline stones. Turning back to the dance at hand, Revel swallowed the quickly growing lump in his throat and swept Lady Genora into the dance, fully aware that the queen was following his movements like a hawk watching a mouse.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 9 of 24

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