Where Magic Flows
A Thousand Reasons: Part One
Eyes followed Anna through the town square. Void of judgement, they looked on with fear. Anna understood their trepidation well. Feeling it herself, she kept her gaze locked on the gates as she quickly approached them. She dared not allow her people to see her worry. They relied on her to figure this out, and to solve it before matters got worse. Anna, however, was stuck wondering if she could; if this was a problem she could fix, or if Elsa really had trapped them here while she went off to face evil on her own?
The gates closed behind her and she entered the great hall. It appeared the same as always, but somehow felt much colder than ever before. Kai and Gerda must have felt the chill as well. They approached from beyond the kitchen, wearing winter scarves tucked around their necks.
"Have you seen Ryder or Honeymaren?" Anna asked, her chin tipping sharply.
Gerda nodded, "They're up on the second floor. Shall I bring something up to them?"
"Tea, please, and for me as well."
Anna made short work of the stairs. She ignored the ache of fatigue coursing through her muscles and followed the hall. Thankfully, Ryder hadn't made it much further. He was marching back towards Anna with his hands held in his pockets. A deep frown pulled lines across his face. His eyes focused on his feet, and he appeared startled when he looked up and saw Anna heading his way.
"Did you find your sister?" Her arms crossed and she stopped short.
Ryder continued until he stood directly before her. "She was in the library, but there's no use talking to her... She's not going anywhere, though. She's really… upset..."
"I have to try," Anna explained, her fingers flexing over her arms. "There's something she and Elsa aren't telling me. If it can help free us from this ice fortress, I need her to tell me now."
Brows lowering, Ryder shook his head. "This is what you meant before, when you said Honeymaren was the answer?"
Anna's lips pursed and her eyes drew to the side.
"What does that mean?" He continued.
"If I knew, I would tell you. Elsa assured me that Honeymaren would figure it out if I told her that much, but I'm starting to doubt my sister's motives here." When her attention returned, Anna's eyes had darkened. Her teeth grit fiercely behind her lips.
Tentatively, Ryder reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I might not know Elsa as well as you do, but I have to believe that she wouldn't put faith in my sister without thinking it through. If she says Honeymaren has the power to do something, she will."
A slow smile took to Anna's lips. "Thank you, Ryder… I hope you're right."
She nodded to him before pulling away. Anna continued down the hall and stopped in front of the library doors with her fist suspended over the wood. After a moment hovering there, Anna shook her head and brought herself to knock. When no response came, as expected, she entered the room. Her eyes scanned through the shelves and she found Honeymaren scaling the ladder on the far wall.
Honeymaren hadn't noticed Anna's arrival. She moved from the ladder and made short work of the three side shelves.
"Careful," Anna came to stand below her. "That board there is loose. If you put too much weight on it you'll fall."
Honeymaren refused to look down. "Spoken like someone who's had it happen to them before."
"I've climbed these shelves a time or two, myself…" Anna smirked.
She watched Honeymaren scan the books. Her fingers ran over their spines, and she started in on the second row.
"Can I help you find something?" She asked. Anna leaned against the base of the ladder, her hand wrapping tightly around one of the rungs.
"I was curious if your mother had kept any journals or books on Northuldra… I'm looking for any notes she might have on our geology."
"Geology?" Frowning, Anna tilted her head.
"Yeah, geology. You know, the ground, rocks, gemstones-"
"I know what geology is!" Anna interrupted before taking a breath. "-but no, I don't believe my mother had anything like that around. She never had much here, to be honest. I think that's because she never anticipated leaving the forest all those years ago."
Honeymaren forewent the ladder and leapt back down onto the floor. "Oh well then…" she stalked away.
"Wait!" Anna called out. "Where are you going?"
"I need to find Hildr. He might have the information I need," she responded as she kept her back to Anna.
"Would you wait for just a minute, please?"
Spinning back to her, Honeymaren crossed her arms. "I'm trying to be patient here, I really am… but I'm angry! I'm angry at you, and I'm angry at Elsa- I know better than to disrespect authority, but it would be easier if everyone would give me some space!"
"I didn't know either!" Anna promised and stepped toward her. "I wasn't lying when I said that earlier. Elsa didn't tell me she planned to seal off the kingdom- I had no idea!"
"-but she did tell you the plans had changed? She meant to keep me here with everyone else, and you knew that much…" Honeymaren leveled Anna with a stare.
Her shoulders shrugged and Anna's hands surrendered at her sides. "I knew that much, yes… but there's more..."
Honeymaren's brow arched curiously, yet she didn't respond.
"There's something else you need to know, but first- I need you to tell me what happened between you and Elsa."
Light flickered behind Honeymaren's eyes. Her lips twitched and she looked away.
"I'm not naive," Anna continued, coming a step closer. "Elsa's acting strange... stranger than usual… And you had that outburst at the dinner table, and then Elsa is making secret plans to keep you safe... This is bigger than the two of you being in love with each other, so I need you to tell me now-"
Her finger pointed to the floor and she stomped. "-right now!"
Honeymaren's attention returned. She found Anna looking back at her, holding a stern glare. Sighing, Honeymaren's shoulders fell. "Alright… but take a seat first. It's… It's complicated."
Both women moved into the seating area. Honeymaren dropped onto the couch with her legs tucked into her chest. Anna sat beside her, rotating on the cushion to face her.
"What's this about?" She asked, hesitantly placing a hand over Honeymaren's.
Honeymaren turned to her sharply. Her back stiffened and she slid away from Anna. "It's about that-please don't touch me…" Honeymaren buried herself into the corner of the couch.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you…" Anna tucked her hands between her knees.
"It's not you, it's… that's the secret… That's what happened to Elsa and I while we were out in the forest..." Honeymaren hugged herself to her legs.
"Go on," she encouraged. Anna pulled her feet up onto the cushion and leaned back into the arm of the couch.
"The amulets, the ones we discussed at dinner- the reason I need to learn more about the gemstones… Elsa and I discovered that they deflect her powers. When we were attacked by Cleyo and the mages, Elsa used her magic, but the ice was sent back at her own heart… I… I stepped in, and maybe I shouldn't have… But I took the hit that was meant for her, and Ahtohallan decided to reward me for it."
A gradual frown formed across Anna's face. Her brows were low and her head shook with confusion. "I don't understand," she whispered.
"Elsa's powers don't affect me anymore, and I can heighten them when I'm nearby… but it's more than that," Honeymaren sighed. Her eyes dropped to the floor. "I can feel things now, things I couldn't before. When I touch people... I can feel their thoughts… sense their emotions... I don't know how to explain it."
When her attention returned, Honeymaren found Anna lost in a wide stare. Her jaw was slack and she blinked.
"You're telling me Ahtohallan bound you to my sister?" Anna blinked again.
Honeymaren reeled back. "I guess... I hadn't thought about it like that…"
A sudden laugh pulled past Anna's lips and she was smiling. "That is so cool! You're like soulmates!" she leapt forward, hugging Honeymaren in her arms. Anna pulled back just as quickly. "Sorry- the touching! I forgot…"
Honeymaren shrugged. "It's fine… it's the negative emotions. They're harder to process than the good ones..."
"This is why you were so upset at dinner," Anna guessed. "-why Elsa asked you not to assume…"
Snorting, Honeymaren rolled her eyes. "It appears my assumptions weren't all that far off, though. Now, we're stuck in here while Elsa is out there on her own..."
Anna straightened in her seat. Slowly, she reached out and rested her hand over Honeymaren's clothed knee. "I have something to tell you… but you have to promise to listen to me first. You can't over react, and you have to wait for the cue."
The skin of her forehead tightened. Honeymaren offered Anna a short nod.
"There is a way out of the ice… Elsa told me before bed that you would be the one to free the fjord."
Honeymaren's lips curled downward and her nose scrunched. "Me?"
"You said it yourself- Elsa told me that you were the answer, and you said that her powers no longer had any affect… If I'm understanding this correctly," Anna continued with a shrug. "I believe you're our way out…"
Relief washed over Honeymaren's skin first. The second flash was anger. It rippled out across her chest and settled deep in her stomach. "What?" She gasped.
"When the time is right," Anna nodded. "You'll free us from the barricade."
Teeth grit and mind reeling, Honeymaren stood from the couch. "I can't believe her! The nerve of Elsa!" She quickly crossed the room.
"Honeymaren, wait! You can't leave! Our armies are relying on you to get us out of here. If you go now, we won't have the backup Elsa needs!"
"I know!" Honeymaren growled, her hands tightening at her hips. "That's why I am so angry! This was just another attempt to keep me behind! I could have helped, Anna, and now I'm still trapped here with everyone else…"
She strode from the library, and this time Anna didn't stop her. She watched Honeymaren go as she sagged back into the couch. Her knees tucked beneath her chin. Her arms wrapped around her legs, and Anna closed her eyes ,raking in a breath.
When would her sister learn?
Nokk trotted along the trail. From her station on his back, Elsa could hear his footfalls. Icy hooves crunched down onto rocks and fallen leaves, echoing each step into the distance. Elsa continued on without fear.
She found herself in a strangely dissociative state. There was no anxiety nor adrenaline; instead Elsa was met with the nothingness of her next right thing. Each step was easy. Every mile felt the same as the last. She knew what she was walking into, and Elsa knew she should feel worried or skeptical. Yet her mind was completely and uncomfortably blank.
Upon reaching the drop off, Elsa slid down from Nokk. With him at her side, she looked out at the meadow below. The rocky trail was coarse beneath her bare feet. With the sun at its mid-day height, the entrance to the forest and the four element stones appeared further away than the last time she'd stood in this spot.
But she had to meet the distance…
Blue eyes scanned the horizon and Elsa took Nokk's reins in her hand. Cleyo was nowhere to be found, but Elsa knew she would come. Her desire to seek vengeance was too strong. Cleyo wouldn't miss the opportunity to face-off with the queen of ice; not if it could mean ending her once and for all.
Elsa stepped down from the rocky ledge, tugging Nokk with her. He didn't move. His hooves dug further into the rocky trail and he stood his ground. Elsa looked up at him, frowning. She pulled his reins against her side.
"Please," she pleaded. "I have to do this."
Nokk brayed, but wouldn't move a muscle.
"It's the only way," Elsa continued. "-to save the forest for Northuldra, and Arendelle…"
His eyes lowered skeptically. He shook his head, and with a chuff- led their march down the steep ledge.
"Thank you," Elsa commended him as their feet met soft grass.
Miles of vast meadowland spanned before them, and the archway beckoned, head-on. Elsa soothed her fingers beneath Nokk's jaw. She turned back to the meadow and began their journey across the open land. Nokk followed at her hip. His eyes scanned their perimeter and his ears lifted, as if awaiting some anticipated attack.
The two made it to the element stones without an issue, and before Cleyo's arrival. Wind. Earth. Fire. Water. This is where Elsa's journey began nearly a year ago, and she was here once again to take on a new force. It wasn't quite the same, though. Last time she was searching for answers, learning more about who she was and where she came from. Now, however, Elsa had those answers and she was preparing to battle with someone quite like herself.
But Cleyo wasn't like her. They saw their world and their magic differently. While Elsa balanced love and fear, Cleyo allowed rage to consume her.
Biting down on her bottom lip, Elsa approached the third stone. Its symbol reminded her of a sunset; how the water on the Dark Sea appeared when the day was nearly done.
She and Cleyo couldn't be the same, for Elsa wouldn't find a stone for herself here. Only the Northuldra had known who she really was. It was as if the forest kept her existence a secret to protect her, and Ahtohallan followed suit by keeping her in the dark about the others out there who had powers similar to hers.
Every part of nature's sequence was carefully planned. If there were more places like Ahtohallan out there, Elsa could only assume there were more women like her. Cleyo was proof of that, but she was also proof that upbringing guides personality. And personality, experience- they fueled the use of those powers…
Alike... but they were both still so different.
Plagued by her thoughts, Elsa was startled when Nokk pulled against the reins, snarling behind his grit teeth. She spun around with her hands raised. Nokk bowed in warning as Cleyo crossed the meadow toward them. Her own hands remained at her sides. Elsa lowered hers, and folded her arms across her chest while she waited.
Cleyo's red hood was drawn over her head. Her face held in shadows, but tendrils of golden hair fell beneath the opening. Cleyo wore the same leather gloves she had the night the mages attacked the Northuldra camp. Her fingers flexed at her hips as if she wanted nothing more than to rid herself of them.
"You said you would come alone, yet you bring your murder horse," Cleyo stoped a fair distance away. Her arms crossed sharply.
"No spirits," Elsa promised. "No aide… The Nokk brought me here, but will return to the sea."
"Get on with it, then," her voice sent dryly.
Keeping her attention strictly on Cleyo, Elsa dropped the reins. "Go," she breathed.
Nokk didn't move. He remained bowed in threat with his eyes low and his ears pinned back.
"Nokk… go now," Elsa painfully scolded.
From the corner of her eye she watched him rise, straightening his legs. He spared her one final, unacknowledged glance before retreating into the forest.
"That's much better," Cleyo sneered, finally daring closer. "They were your rules to follow, afterall…"
"They were; I can't say I'm not surprised you decided to follow them." Elsa pursed her lips.
Circling Elsa's left, Cleyo approached the stone. Her hand splayed against its surface, below the diamond symbol. "Though, in all fairness… I am still overpowered."
Elsa frowned, her brows lowering as her head tilted. "It's just you and me. Our powers are weighted the same."
"-but they're not," Cleyo withdrew her hood. She turned to Elsa and her dark lips curled. "I realized this at Ahtohallan. You have tamed the fire spirit before… you defeated the flame amongst nature. Who's to say your strength cannot overpower the flame amongst man, as well?"
Her shoulders straightened and Elsa reeled in a breath. "We do not have to test our strength in order to come to a consensus. I was thinking about it before you arrived, and you and I may be more alike than either of us realized."
"You lie," Cleyo smirked. Her head shook as she turned from Elsa and placed her hand on the next stone. "You do not believe us alike. If you did, you wouldn't have asked me to join you here. You would have ended the dispute at Ahtohallan, instead of buying yourself more time… Besides, a test of power is exactly what we need. Fire and Ice cannot coexist, not in the way you hope they can."
"Perhaps not here," Elsa continued, her hands reasoning at her sides. "-but there's nothing that says you can't carve your own path elsewhere… End your tyranny here and you will be free to go."
Laughing, Cleyo's brown eyes returned. She stripped her first hand of its glove. "Go back to Rushave where they think of me as a monster? Become a weapon of war for the Kingdom of Westleton… These are my options… Those are my paths. There are no fairytale forests nor village people to welcome me home with open arms, princess."
"It's time to build a new home, then. Travel with your mages. Search for more answers. There is something out there for everyone- more places like Ahtohallan, you said that yourself…" Elsa nodded in encouragement. "You don't need to resort to violence. Why seek revenge when you can have understanding instead?"
Elsa stepped back as Cleyo's second glove fluttered to her feet.
"I understand enough," Cleyo smiled. She faced Elsa fully and grit her teeth. "I understand your magic has an opportunity for beauty. It's an art form at its purest, while mine instills terror in all who witness it... And I see you have the capability to love, but for me- I only feel hate… We are similar, yes… In some ways I suppose that's true, but our biggest difference is how we desire to see our feud end. You want life to remain the same as it has, while I want a life where my powers can be respected.
"I want to rule above the flames. I want people to both fear and idolize me, but it's more than that, Elsa… I need the average man to bow to magic in all its forms- not believe they are worthy of living amongst it; like your forest girl…" Cleyo glowered with a deep laugh.
"Magic is the highest power amongst man, and it's time the world was forced to realize that. If the goddess of earth gave us these gifts, then we are superior to all but her. No longer will I allow myself to hide in the shadows of my flames. I will take command over mankind and remind them that it is nature who commands all who walk its surface… and yet-"
Cleyo softened. Her eyes enlarged and she took a single step closer to Elsa. Her knuckles brushed against the fair skin of Elsa's cheek. Cleyo's head tilted slowly to the side.
"And yet, I'm afraid I can no longer do this without your support…"
Stepping back, Cleyo drew her hood overhead. Her fingers raised and she snapped. A bright flash of light burst above the point of the four stones, and Elsa's jaw dropped. She looked up, heart racing with panic. A vibrant red powder rained down from the sky, staining the grass at their feet with its blood-like sheen.
Coughing, Elsa quickly covered her mouth. Her pupils dilated and her heart beat faster. As the powder continued falling, it coated her arms and her hair. Elsa's wide eyes turned to find that in her distraction, she'd been inconveniently surrounded.
Mages in their black cloaks emerged from the forest. All twelve of them wore the deep red amulets made from the tourmaline gem.
"This is how we both win," Cleyo appeared at Elsa's back.
Cleyo's arm laced under hers, and Elsa swayed uneasily. She tried to pull away, but her knees buckled. Elsa reached inside of herself for her powers, yet they refused to come to the surface. Instead, Elsa was met with a chill. Her skin grew cold and her limbs felt weighted like stone. Elsa had no choice but to lean into Cleyo, allowing her to hold her upright.
"In this state, you cannot fight. There will be no battle between us, and I won't have to risk losing against you."
Cleyo released her. Elsa quickly fell to her knees. Lowering to hers, Cleyo brushed a hot finger beneath Elsa's chin, and it sizzled upon contact.
"Welcome to my magical revolution, Elsa of Ahtohallan… We are so happy you could join us."