Ragnarök; it was everywhere. Neighbors fought with each other over small things, such as who needed the most bread or who was entitled to the finest wine. There was unrest in the army camps as soldiers' boredom coalesced into something else—something akin to a killer instinct. And Aleksander's equestrian force felt the urge to kill everything in the way, from small animals to innocent farms and tradesmen. Those Weselton forces left in the Castle spent hard time keeping the Duchess safe from errant guards and mercenaries, and the brothers from the Southern Isles, who did not make the sea voyage, quarreled and fought as the Isles were besieged with strife. And with all this, the winds, constant and freezing, along with the freezing snow. Lindar and Johannes had gone down the right root, and were currently summoning the Frost Jötnar.
Even the gods went to war.
The sea was rough, roiling in time with the freezing winds, causing the ships to slow down, lest they sink. Hans looked out his porthole window and tried to fold the blanket tighter around him, as it was extremely cold. The sight before him caused some distress. The brandy didn't help, either. And only made him feel drunker, less alert to the machinations of his surroundings. Finally, the ship seemed to steer into the wind, making his stomach feel less upset.
Hans grabbed his brandy and sat down on his uncomfortable bed. His thoughts were in a tumble, and his heart was feeling a certain regret, which was new. He secretly wondered in his heart if this mission was right, and for the greater good. For months he had planned for this exact moment, only to find himself on a blade's edge of doubt. It pierced his very being, and the breath he exhaled was so forceful that it knocked him to the deck of the ship.
The Prince blinked several times as an image floated on the periphery of his vision; one so pure that a quiet sob escaped his mouth. No. No. No… Anna… He flinched when a cold gust of wind suddenly enveloped him.
"What are you doing on the floor?" Magnus lifted his pipe and re-lit it with a match. He stood in the doorway and didn't seem too anxious to close it.
Hans scrambled off his feet and dusted off his lapels. "What do you want?"
"Merely to check up on you, Hans. Why aren't you at the galley? Dinner is ready." Magnus eyed the Prince closely and could sense there was something wrong. "Who is Anna?"
"What?" Hans was mortified.
You were whispering that name. Who is it?"
"Its nothing. Probably the last prostitute I visited." Hans stood taller and adjusted his uniform jacket. "Now get out of my cabin."
"See you at supper." With a grin, Magnus left, chuckling on his way out."
As Elsa was in the Cathedral the winds started to swirl around the Square, blowing snowflakes all over Arendelle and its environs. Elsa leaned against a column; her head bowed, and felt a myriad of emotions wash over her. Creeping, slithering like a snake, shame roiled within, much to her dismay.
She cringed and looked up, watching Anna move down the aisle to get Leif. Why doesn't she look at me with scorn? What we did—it didn't feel typical—or normal. The blonde almost laughed. Normal? When had the events of these last months been normal, or rational, or even sane? She felt like screaming and putting an end to Ragnarök right then by walking away from it. But she had made promises, had staked her reputation on doing the right thing, and felt responsible for Anna. Sighing, she once more glanced at the Princess, and wished they could leave their obligations and lead a happy and quiet life.
Anna could almost hear Elsa's self-loathing, but she could feel it in her heart, and it caused her sorrow. She bent down and watched as her little boy woke up. Leif stretched his little arms and yawned, little baby noises greeted Anna and she smiled at her son. "Hello, little one. Come, let's go see your mom."
Elsa's eyes flew wide open, and she screamed. A horrible sensation made her insides churn, and heat built up from her stomach. The blonde fell back as a tremendous swirl of colorful mist seemed to emanate from her mouth, and then raced down the center aisle of the great church. It blasted through the enormous double doors, and then flew into Óðinn, sending him over the square.
Elsa recovered quickly, the odd feeling abruptly gone, and then rushed to open the large Cathedral doors. "Óðinn!" She jumped a bit as Anna came up to her, holding Leif tightly.
The Princess watched as the lumbering god stood up and wiped dirt and loose stones off of his unusual clothes. "He looks a bit shaken, don't you think?" She glanced at Elsa. "Your expression, Elsa, is exactly like his."
"How can you even look at me?" Elsa swallowed hard, and attempted to draw away from Anna.
But the Princess had had enough of her sister's self-loathing. "Stop it, Elsa! I can't take you being so pessimistic all the time! You need to stop being so selfish."
The Queen frowned. "How am I being egotistical?"
"Think about it, will you?" Anna secured Leif in her embrace. "Its not all about you!"
Elsa blushed. "I know that, Anna." She paused and lowered her head. "Yes, it isn't just about me." When she lifted her head there was a hard determination in her eyes. "Have you felt any changes lately?"
"What kind of changes?"
"Well, has your intuition been telling you anything? About Leif or me—or whatever?"
"Well, nothing for myself, have you?"
At that moment Óðinn appeared from the broken doors. "Queen Elsa, the Æsir are on the move."
"Where is Óðinn? He is supposed to be here! Where is Thor—and Loki is gone!" Frigg stood on Bifröst as it shimmered in and out of existence, its power fluctuating. She had gone into hiding at the threshold to Midgard, and was able to watch the as the Æsir ran past her to confront an advancing army.
Asgard was in frenzy, as its gods and goddesses prepared themselves for inevitable war. Ancient armor was snapped into place, and the instruments for battle held with a fierce intensity. But somewhere in the confusion lurked a hidden menace, one that had yet to reveal itself—the one that Elsa had tapped into—and at that moment, was cackling with delight.
Frigg whirled around and faced the golden Gates of Asgard, and watched helplessly as they began to rumble, and fall in on themselves. "No…"
There was a terrible roaring at Yggdrasil as hundreds of stags broke through the thick forest and stopped abruptly near the center of the world. Iðunn, a goddess of the Æsir, rode ahead of the stags on her golden steed, and raised the horn to her lips and blew out a great noise heard in heaven and earth. Two Horses of the Æsir, Glad and Gyllir, returned the call from deep into the forest, signaling that they were turning back on a path that winded east. If Iðunn's plan succeeded, a good portion of the stags would end up following Lieutenant Aleksander's equestrian forces from Weselton into the thicker conifers, thus putting them in grave danger.
"Bragi!" Iðunn turned her horse to the three roots, and her voice was heard in Valhalla.
"How dare you summon me to the land of men! I have nothing to do with their affairs." Bragi called from one of the nine worlds, his voice deep and resonant.
"I need you, my husband!" Iðunn reared her horse. "I call upon the ancient oaths!"
Bragi roared his way from the three roots. "Do you think this is just a war among men? This is Ragnarök!"
Iðunn gritted her teeth. "I know this is our demise, I have known it since the beginning. But in fighting with men we may see our end to glory."
"Glory?" Bragi turned his head slightly and scratched his beard. "How?"
"The many will fall and die, but there is one who may redeem us, if our hearts stay true." The goddess looked back to the many stags. "Will you stay here, at Yggdrasil? With half of these stags?"
"What would you have me do?"
"If their brothers do not succeed in felling a demon, then you will be needed here to stop him."
Bragi raised his mighty arm and a flaming sword appeared in his hand. "I will stop the demon."
Iðunn nodded and turned her horse towards Arendelle and took off at a great speed. Half of the stags followed her.
The Great White tree hummed so loud that some of its creatures, which dwelled on its many branches, fell to their deaths at its base.
"I come to Arendelle at its hour of great need." Kristoff took off his helm to reveal his identity, he . "And to bring with me a host from the Valley of the Living Rock."
The soldier looked behind the mountain man at the tall creatures. "Oh, my god." Then his eyes fell upon the armored man. "Kristoff? Is that you?"
Kristoff ran an armored hand through his graying hair, trying to shake off the building snow. "Yes, I'm afraid it is, as you can see."
Espen reached out and grabbed Kristoff's arm. "I am so glad to see you, my friend. Where have you been—and what are these?"
The mountain man glanced at the trolls. "They are, well… let's just say they will help us when the enemy comes. Where did you come from?"
"General Urban's forces are to the north, closer to Arendelle city. I'm from one of his advanced scouts. My brethren are all around us." Espen looked more closely at Kristoff and pulled his jacket close in an effort to ward off the cold. "Why did the General tell us to look out for you?"
"Probably because the Queen had me banished from Arendelle." There was no reprimand in Kristoff's voice, nor was there any defiance. He was a broken man, one who was only doing his duty because it was expected.
Anna watched Óðinn as he, once again, examined the iconography inside the Cathedral. It made her feel it bit irritable, as she was anxious to know what was happening to Elsa. "Óðinn? Can you please look at me?"
The Allfather regarded the artwork for a few more moments, and then turned to face the Princess. "What do you want, little one?"
Anna almost lost her temper, but with Leif in her arms, it was something she clamped down on. "What is it with you two? Both of you have guilty looks on your faces. What is wrong?"
"Something has happened that I cannot explain, Snowflake." Elsa grunted as she moved away from the column, her body was tired and sore. "Someone—an entity or spirit—was inside me, and was able to take partial control of me. I think Jörmungandr kept it from taking complete control. When it left, it flew through Óðinn and then disappeared."
Anna blanched, and then briefly glanced at Óðinn before continuing. "Was it in you while we… we…"
Anna coolly walked over to Óðinn and handed him a sleeping Leif. When she turned back and glared at the blonde, Elsa took a step back. "How could you? You let it happen and didn't even try to stop!"
"Anna, please! It was only me who was with you, I promise!"
Óðinn's eyes widened when it came to him what they were talking about. All eyes turned to the broken Cathedral doors when the stags banged on them with their antlers. The doors smashed open and the giant red deer openly growled at the gigantic god, who immediately knew his mistake. "Princess Anna, perhaps you had better retrieve your son."
The Princess eyes went wide as she realized what she had done. She straightaway picked up the boy from Óðinn's arms and blew a deep sigh. "I'm sorry, Elsa, I wasn't thinking."
But Elsa was, and she was keenly aware that Óðinn could have disappeared with the boy at any second. It was then that she realized just how volatile the situation really was. "Anna, please take Leif back to the carriage along with the stags, please.'
Óðinn turned angrily back to Elsa when the Princess was gone. "You don't trust me, do you? All your flattering words in the weeks past were for nothing!"
Elsa shook her head, clearing it of all confusion. "No…no. Listen to me, Óðinn! We need to stop fighting; it is only reinforcing Ragnarök, and putting us all at risk."
The tall god blinked several times, and then finally relaxed from his defensive stance. "What is going on with Princess Anna, Elsa? What is bothering her is more than the effects of the prophecies."
Elsa hesitated for a moment, and then she blushed. "We were being intimate when—something invaded me. Those are the only words I can think of to describe what it felt like. It was in my soul, and it briefly took over my body when, well…"
"I understand, Queen Elsa."
"This is why I called upon you, Óðinn, to seek your guidance in this matter." The blonde picked up Leif's blanket off the pew and hugged it to her. "Do you know what this might be?"
Óðinn paused to think, and his mind was soon flooded with many things that had come to pass. But for some inexplicable reason, he found his thoughts returning to the Æsir and to the concept of revenge. But whose revenge? All of Æsir were at peace with each other, even Loki. He didn't understand it at all. "I don't know if I can be of any help to you, Queen Elsa. My thoughts return to the gods, to the Æsir, as if the answer lie along that road."
"To the Æsir?" Elsa walked closer to the god, and then glanced out the broken Cathedral doors. Anna was in the carriage, with the stags close-by. "Are you telling me the gods have turned against me?"
Óðinn removed his hat and cloak, and was about to speak when he abruptly turned towards the door and made his way outside. Geri and Freki were back in the square, and were facing off with the stags, who were looking like they wanted to kill.
Dáinn was the largest of them, and his interior intuition was telling him to keep this creature and his animals at bay. "Óðinn, get your dogs out of here, they are not allowed anywhere near the Prince." He pointed his massive antlers at the wolves and growled deeply. "Get out of here!"
"NOOO!" Anna's scream reverberated throughout the square.
Elsa was out the doors in an instant. She lifted her arms and blasted the square with ice in order to de-escalate the tension. The wolves and stags slipped on the ice and fell, but Óðinn remained standing just outside the doors, ice covering his boots. The Queen sprinted to the carriage, and quickly opened the doors.
"I'm sorry, Snowflake, for everything." Elsa entered the carriage and pulled Anna, with Leif, onto her lap. "I think I understand why there is so much tension in the air—its Ragnarök, Princess. It is upon us—its tentacles weave into the strongest of hearts."
At that moment there was a great rumbling sound, and the ground began to roll slightly, coming from the north.
"You must let me see the Queen, we don't have much time!"
"I've told you before—several times! The Castle and the whole damn city is on lock-down. No one is allowed to wander about." The soldier picked up his rifle and went out the door, slamming it as he did so.
Beatrice looked out the large parlor window and noticed the return of soldiers and a few sailors to the streets of Arendelle. Now that the citizens who lived in the city proper were indoors, thanks to the hundreds of soldiers who put them there, the city square and market place was once again filled Her Majesty's military. There was a train of them on horses pulling wagons with large canons on them; they were headed towards the docks and the city parapet walls.
The Librarian turned from the window and sat down by the fire, wringing her hands as her niece and nephew played with their toys. "Why won't anyone listen to me, " she whispered to herself, and then picked up her book and tried to read.
There were a few other people lounging in the Inn's parlor at the time, including a nobleman who was being attended to by his squire. He wasn't an old man, but the dark circles under his eyes made him look like it, and his sparse beard was scattered with gray hair. Duke Otleiv nodded as the squire handed him some documents, and then he lifted his ale and took a long drink.
Beatrice discreetly examined the man as he read the documents. His dress told her that he held a high station, perhaps even more powerful than an Earl. But what was he doing here, relaxing, when war was so close?
Duke Otleiv put down his documents and glanced out the window. The amount of activity over at the other side of the Marketplace startled him. The outdoor shops and food stands were being torn down and battlements put in their place. It sickened him to see the old historic parts of the city in ruins. But he supposed all this change was necessary, especially in light of the bombing in the Castle. Many of his colleagues and friends had been lost when that happened.
A small twinge of pain hit him at that moment, and he had to strain to hold back the tears that threatened to come. Otleiv took another large drink of ale, and his eyes fell on a young woman looking at him. He put down his tankard and cleared his throat. "I see you watching me."
Beatrice quickly turned her head away. Damn. "I'm sorry, my Lord, I did not mean to invade your privacy."
"You didn't." Otleiv handed the documents back to the squire. "Put these away, and will you please fetch another ale?"
The Squire nodded to the Duke and then glanced at Beatrice before leaving the parlor.
Beatrice knew she didn't have the luxury of a long conversation. "Do you see Her Majesty, my Lord? Do you know where she is and what she is doing?"
"I think, perhaps, she is preoccupied with the war and its preparations." Otleiv frowned somewhat, and looked more closely at the woman. "Have we met, young lady? Your face is very familiar to me."
"My name is Beatrice. If you frequent the Castle then you may have seen me in or at the royal library. I serve Her Highness—Princess Anna, my Lord."
"I see." The Duke smiled. "Is there something I can do for you, Beatrice?"
"Perhaps there is."
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