“I’m going out there. I’m going to find Elsa.”
“Your Highness,” Hans cut in front of her, “please reconsider. There’s more than a platoon of soldiers heading that direction as we speak, it’s going to be too dangerous for you to go out there now.”
“That’s the thing. Soldiers.” Anya moved past him with the grace of a ballerina. “You’re hunting her down like she’s some kind of criminal.”
“Magic users are.” Hans’ voice held an serrated edge.
“Then send the soldiers after the one hunting my sister. I’m her only family.”
“If you leave Arrendale, we can’t protect you.” Hans followed behind the princess as she made her way through the castle.
“If I stay here, no one will protect her.” Anya pointed out to the forests beyond Arrendale. A blizzard had settled across the landscape. As of yet, it had not reached the borders of Arrendale. No one knew how long the sunny sky would last. “I’m going, and if you won’t come with me, then you can stay and keep the council busy.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Hans inclined his head only slightly as he watched Anya run into the night.
Elsewhere in the heart of the blizzard, a structure was forming from the ice. Rooms spiraled from a fractured courtroom in the center, forming hexagonal halls and vaulted crystalline ceilings. Elsa stood in the center, and pushed her energy, backed by her anger-curdling fear, into the epicenter. This would have to be her home. This place in the ice and cold that had kept her safe from every fear her father had trained her to master would keep her from the horror of what would happen if her sister ever figured out that it was her wielding the magic or the mob of angry citizens that would inevitably arise to strike her down.
Elsa fell to her knees in exhaustion. her breath formed a fog in front of her as she panted. Her nails scratched paths in the ice at her feet. With all but her physical strength gone, she pulled herself to her feet and stumbled to a ledge jutting from the wall. There, a woman stared back at her. It was a reflection of neither a warrior nor a princess, but some strange configuration of the two. Branches clung to her crown, wolf skins draped over one shoulder like a sash, and her hair tried desperately to stay in something resembling a braid.
The crown fell to the floor, then the branches. Elsa ran her hands through her hair. Even in the pathetic remains of a braid, it looked like a princess’s. That would have to change. She wiped the blade of her dagger against her thigh and sliced handfuls of hair, cutting the sides down until they were short against her scalp, leaving only a thick mane down the center. Even that got cut down until it stood straight in the hair like tongues of blue fire. It fit like the perfect crown for a queen.
The cold may not have bothered Elsa, but it was getting to Anya. She never got a grip of how… cold cold could be. The shawl around her shoulders couldn’t keep any heat in it, and despite royalty-only-knows how many petticoats and underskirts her legs were shaking with each step.
Just ahead of her, a shape was beginning to emerge in the blowing snow ahead of her. A shape that jingled.
“Hey!” Anya called to the shape in front of her. “Royalty here. Pull over.”
The sled, pulled by a single reindeer, stopped just short of her. “Seriously? I wasn’t even doing anything.” A blonde guy about Anya’s age waved a mitten at her.
“I’m going to need to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance.” Anya cocked half a smile and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Wait, you aren’t a guard.” The driver squinted at her over his scarf.
“No, not a guard, just a princess in need.”
“Yeah? Well I’m an ice delivery man in need.”
“Ice?” Anya laughed. “Your career might be short lived there, buddy.” Anya climbed into his sled. “Anyway, that’s not important-“
“Not important? That’s my life we’re talking about.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay. I got that. But I really need someone to take me there.” Anya pointed to the center of the spreading storm.
The ice delivery guy’s shoulders fell. “You’re demon sent to punish me, aren’t you?”
“No. Princess. Prin-cess. But I do have the authority to punish.”
Her glare made the driver snap the reins and steer the sled back towards the blizzard. The two travelled in silence until the wind picked up and Anya found herself edging closer and closer to the driver.
“Hey, what’re you doing?” The driver pulled his arm away. “You don’t even know me.”
“I know you have body heat and I need it.”
The driver narrowed his eyes at her. “Seriously? First you take over my sled, then you think you can cuddle up to me without even getting my name?”
“Well, if Hans were here, I’d be cuddling with him, because he’s a gentleman and would notice a lady in need. But he’s not, so you’ll have to do. It’s nothing personal I just need to get warm.”
“What did I do to deserve this?” The driver looked up at the heavens, then obediently raised an arm for Anya to scoot under.
“What is your name, anyway?” Anya eventually asked.
“Kristoff. So, how come lover-boy isn’t out here helping you show the world you’ve lost your mind?” Kristoff didn’t look down at the small woman wrapped in his arm.
Anya huffed. “Because he’s at the castle keeping everything organized and running smoothly. It’s very sweet of him.”
“Right. I’m sure he just leapt into action the moment he heard you needed him.”
Kristoff didn’t give anything away in his expression, and Anya hated that. “No, he happened to be here for alliance negotiations and he offered help when help was needed. Without being forced to help. It’s a good quality for husbands to have.” She sighed a dreamy sort of sigh and looked ahead of them into the oncoming snow.
She did see Kristoff roll his eyes that time. “What’s that look for?”
“Nothing. I’m sure he has a long standing record of being there when a girl needs him.”
That’s when genuine surprise crossed his face.
“I kinda sort of met him yesterday.”
“You met him yesterday and you’re thinking about marrying him?” Kirstoff yelled into the night. “Didn’t your parents every teach you about strangers?”
Anya went from looking straight ahead to the person she was currently stealing body heat from. “Yes.” She scooted back to her seat. “Yes, they did.” She was about to add another comment when a roar erupted ahead of them. A bear, larger than the sled, barrelled through the snow away from the mountain, which happened to mean towards them.
“Watch out!” Anya cried.
“I see it.” Kristoff yanked the reins hard right, sending the sled into the trees… and around another bear. He jerked the reins back to the left to get back on the path. One runner lifted off the ground in the turn. Anya had lost her balance and nearly fell out of the sled. If it hadn’t been for Kristoff reaching out and grabbing her by the belt, she would have.
With his one free hand, Kristoff pulled the reins to the right to get the sled back on two runners.
“What the-” Kristoff had time to say before the reindeer driving the sled banked to the right again at an ice crystal the size of a tower. The sled couldn’t make the same turn and collided with the ice.