Chapter 1: Part One - Of the Earth
Where Magic Flows
Part One: Of the Earth
Wind whipped through the fjords. Fierce waves crashed against the shore. The ground trembled as if braced by thunder. Movement coursed across the Dark Sea until, in an instant, the water was frozen stiff.
Galloping feet sounded in the distance. A figure drew nearer from off the banks of Ahtohallan. They were but a speck of light in the midday sun; growing larger with each passing second. That bright beacon was a horse carved from ice. A female companion led at his reins. The two slowed as they reached the shores, and approached their friends in waiting.
Elsa of Arendelle leapt from Nokk’s back. Her bare feet planted against the smooth stones along the beach.
“What brings you two this far North?” She sent them a small grin, before turning to thank the Nokk.
Her hand waved over his icy coat. Nokk crooned into her touch. He nudged Elsa playfully before backing away and dissolving into an oncoming wave.
“There was a disturbance amongst the reindeer.” Honeymaren explained. Her hands raised in feigned dramatics.
Elsa stepped in at her side. “A fight?” She questioned. Her brows pulled low.
“They fled to the giants’ territory-”
“-but don’t you worry! I got them back!” Ryder pushed his sister aside. His hands splayed proudly over his hips, and he grinned.
Elsa was forced to stifle a laugh. “I see. Well, as all has been settled, I imagine you are both waiting for me now?”
Honeymaren and Ryder’s words blurted together at once.
With a grin, Elsa rolled her eyes. She took the lead back towards the trail, and teased them from over her shoulder. “-now that you’ve cleared that up.”
“What we had meant was…” Honeymaren sang, and circled in at Elsa’s hip. “-we figured we would wait and walk you back to the village.”
“Yeah!” Ryder shouted as he raced to catch up. “You know, so you didn’t have to travel back on your own.”
Elsa sent them each a nod. “What a nice gesture, though I am pretty comfortable being alone. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Confusion crossed Ryder’s face. “Oh…” He hummed.
“-but I do prefer having company.” Elsa nudged him, and Ryder’s smile immediately returned.
“Besides…” Honeymaren pulled Elsa’s attention back to her. “We were not worried, per say-”
“-no; more like bored, and avoiding more chores from Yelena.”
Elsa giggled. She shook her head. “Glad I could be of service, then.”
She watched Honeymaren shoot Ryder a deadly glare and fold her arms in irritation.
“Siblings, am I right?” Ryder’s lips pulled to the side.
Elsa scrunched her nose with a glimmering look. “I don’t know about that.” She searched to explain. “Anna and I almost never have fights.”
“Never?” He balked.
Elsa shrugged. “Not really, no. Though, neither of us exactly had what you would call, a normal childhood.”
“Princesses aren’t allowed to fight?” Ryder’s brows touched to his hairline. “How strange.”
“She is talking about having powers, you dope.” Honeymaren tilted her eyes toward the sky.
“Oh…” Ryder scratched at his head.
“Perhaps having brothers is much different than having a sister.”
“It is.” Honeymaren quickly answered, and the two women shared a laugh. “Men are completely different than women; that is all I am going to say.”
“Hey!” Ryder defended. “-man, standing right here!”
“A man?” Honeymaren came to a swift halt.
Startled, Elsa did the same.
“Where?” Honeymaren asked again. Her head whipped wildly over her shoulders. “I don’t see any…”
“Haha.” Ryder dryly mocked. “Very funny.”
He lagged behind as the women carried ahead, feeling disheartened by their continued laughter.
“It was only a joke!” Honeymaren called back to him. Yet, Ryder continued his grumbling.
“The two of you are always going at it.” Elsa whispered to her.
“It is all in good fun!” Honeymaren smiled as she explained. “We like to get on each other’s nerves. It is pretty normal for most siblings.”
Elsa hummed, and carried her eyes to her feet. She pulled back a small sigh. “I am afraid that is something I will never understand.”
“It is all about having trust.” Honeymaren continued, and Elsa lifted her gaze. “You see, Ryder and I fight because we care about each other. It is like two wolf pups who bite at each other’s ears. I know Ryder will eventually bite me back, but at the end of the day, our love for one another remains.”
A slow smile turned to Elsa’s cheeks. “I might know what you mean. I can remember teasing Anna for fun when we were little.”
The sigh finally fell passed her lips. Elsa’s eyes returned to the ground.
“It is friday-game-night, right?” Honeymaren nudged Elsa in reminder. “You are missing Anna, but you will see her soon enough.”
“That is true.” The light in Elsa’s eyes returned. “Perhaps I will head there a little early today.”
Honeymaren forced a small nod. Her smile noticeably weakened.
“See, now there’s an idea...” She held her feigned grin until her face had hidden to the side. Elsa then watched it fall away completely.
“I planned on finishing our walk first... Don’t you worry.” She casually teased.
“No, I-” Honeymaren began, but Elsa had stepped ahead.
“Women, am I right?” Ryder snuck up behind his sister. He ribbed her playfully in the arm.
“You’re an idiot.” Honeymaren deadpanned, and she nudged Ryder further away from her.
The three continued on, up the final span of trail before they’d meet the river’s edge. As the gentle melodic sounds of the current were heard, the wind began to pick up. The skies darkened. Clouds poured in.
“Is it only me, or did it get colder all of a sudden?” Honeymaren drew further into her shall.
Elsa had stopped at the hilt of the trail. “What is it, Gale?” She asked her.
Streams of green leaves circled around her. Elsa’s arms lifted to the air, and Gale continued to spiral. She carried a bit of parchment in her wings. Gale dropped it in Elsa’s hand before fluttering off into the forest.
“Another reminder from your sister?” Honeymaren taunted her.
“It would appear so.” Elsa lifted the folds from the parchment, and quietly began to read.
Honeymaren watched on. Elsa’s forehead creased as her gaze wavered across the page. Her blue eyes pulled low. Even her hands flexed where her fingers met the parchment. Elsa’s movements were often stiff, however this spoke of something further.
Elsa’s leveled demeanor fell away.
“Is something wrong?” Honeymaren asked.
“Anna says she has to reschedule.” Her face fought to pout.
Confused and saddened for her, Honeymaren’s jaw tipped to respond. Yet, in an instant, her words were stolen by a sound like thunder.
The earth below their feet gave a sudden lurch.
The ground trembled on for miles. The three fought the vibrations to remain on their feet, and a low bellow cried out from across the moving river.
Elsa’s eyes sprung wide. “The earth giants!” She announced.
Elsa took off at a sprint, leaving Honeymaren and Ryder to follow.
Through tangles of briar and overgrown brush, Elsa led them along the forest. She cut across the jagged boulders. She scaled over fallen trees, and came to a halt at the ledge of the falls.
Chaos had erupted to life amongst the giants. Three of which had scattered, shaking rocks loose from the walls as they scurried away. With poise, Honeymaren dodged a rock that came rolling her way. Ryder yelped. He jumped into the air, and quickly hid behind Honeymaren’s back.
“That is one fight I do not want to be in the middle of!” He quivered, and Ryder was correct.
The largest of giants began to brawl with a second; one closest to his size.
He let out a low growl. His hands came forward, and he knocked into the chest of his foe. The second giant pushed back. He lifted off his feet, and body slammed them into the shore.
As they tumbled into the river, waves coursed across the water’s length.
“Stand back!” Elsa shouted.
Both Honeymaren and Ryder stumbled into a crawl as they scrambled back up the hill.
Ice shot out from Elsa’s hands. The waves froze and crashed against the rocks. Elsa leapt down from the ledge and onto a slide of her own creation. She skated to a halt along the bank. Her feet scratched against the stone, and she sped off to stop the giants.
“What is going on?” Ryder turned to Honeymaren. “-and what is all over you?”
Honeymaren looked down at her tunic. It was covered in red dust; the same red dust she could see shining along the river bank. Ryder’s pants were covered as well.
“I don’t have a clue.” Honeymaren worked to brush it off.
Then, their attention diverted. The two watched as Elsa desperately pried the giants apart with her magic. She was quickly cast aside. Elsa fell onto her rear, and the brawl continued.
“Enough!” She shouted.
The giants paid no mind. Boulder throwing persisted as rocks sailed through the air, forcing Elsa to dodge their weight.
“Why aren’t they stopping?” Ryder worried. “Elsa is the Fifth Spirit! She is the giants’ balance on earth.”
Honeymaren’s eyes grew as wide as her brother’s. She dropped her voice into a whisper. “It is as if they don’t recognize Elsa at all.”
Anxious, with their hearts racing, Honeymaren and Ryder drew closer together.
“The spirits are stirring.” She said to him, and the two shared a fearful look.
Miles from Northuldra, Arendelle was amidst its own upset.
Queen Anna, with a face like stone, was crossing through the busy village square.
She could feel the many eyes on her. The villagers watched with their unwavering gaze. They waited, testing Anna, and ready to see how their queen would respond.
Anna’s feet bore heavy, yet she held her stance. She continued to walk with her chin held high, as she headed for the castle gates.
Guards released the doors to the foyer. Gerda was there to quickly usher Anna inside. Her hands worked off Anna’s shall, and she directed her into the light; before retiring the garb to its hook.
Beyond the hall, Kristoff waited. His hands were clasped tight at his waist. His eyes drove wide, but immediately softened upon seeing his wife’s return.
In an instant, Anna broke. Seeing Kristoff, she drew in a staggering breath, and her tears began to flow. Her feet went limp. She allowed herself to fall, and weakly cocooned into Kristoff’s arms.
Wordlessly, he held her. Anna’s face pressed into his chest. Her cries muffled into the fabric of his shirt, and Kristoff slowly began to stroke her hair.
Where Magic Flows
Part Two: Of the Earth
Elsa was roused from sleep. The brush of a tail stroked beneath her chin. She swatted it away, irritated, and rolled onto her back. Her head buried into the pillow, hoping to hide from her intruder. Nevertheless, the disturbance came again. Small feet scurried up her stomach, and settled against her chest.
When Elsa opened her eyes, she found two more looking down on her. They were wide; curious even. Elsa blinked, and the eyes blinked back.
She laughed. Her finger lightly scratched along salamander’s side. “What are you doing in here?” She asked, and emitted a small yawn.
Bruni leapt down onto the floor as Elsa sat up. She stretched her hands overhead, and Bruni stopped to stare. His tongue held impatiently outside of his mouth. He waited. When Elsa moved again, Bruni bounced towards her excitedly. Elsa hadn’t quite made it up from the bed before Bruni forced his way back into her lap. He settled there, smiling, and begging for more scratches.
“Okay,” Elsa sang. “-but only for a minute.”
Bruni grumbled happily. His eyes blinked slow, and began to close as Elsa softly stroked his skin.
“It seems you have trapped me here.” She giggled. “You planned this, didn’t you? How can I possibly move now?”
Craning into her touch, Bruni purred. She caressed him, watching his legs kick as a gentle flurry began over Bruni's head.
“How frightening you are.” Elsa teased.
Bruni responded by turning onto his back. He blinked at her again, grinning goofily. Feet swatted at the snowflakes, and his tale whipped playfully; much like a cat would do.
“Don’t tell the others, but sometimes you are my favorite.”
A quick rap of fingers suddenly sounded at her door. Elsa was startled silent, and her spine pulled straight.
She cleared her throat. “Come in.”
Elsa shook out her hair and straightened the fabric of her nightgown as Honeymaren entered her hut.
The woman smiled cheekily. She had a knowing look on her face. Her eyes gleamed, and Elsa knew that her silly, one-sided banter had been overheard.
“So, we are having early morning chats now, are we?” Honeymaren pulled the door closed behind her. She brushed her hair behind her ears and stepped into the dim light of the small bedroom.
Elsa turned onto her side as best as she could manage. Spinning the dial on her lantern, the glow brightened. Bruni protested her movements by curling into her stomach, and Elsa laughed.
“We were.” She hummed. “I woke up to find that I had a visitor, and now it appears, I have two.”
With her shoulders tight, Honeymaren nodded. “I hope you don’t mind my intrusion.”
“Not at all. Please, have a seat.”
Elsa lifted Bruni to her shoulder as she moved over on the cot. She patted the space beside her, motioning for Honeymaren to join. Honeymaren, with her lips pursed and hands clenched, slowly crossed to Elsa’s side. She sat. Her legs crossed, and their eyes came together when Honeymaren offered Elsa a tiny grin.
“Thank you,” She whispered. “I apologize if I disrupted your morning.”
“It’s quite alright. We aren’t bothered.” Elsa turned her head to find Bruni with his neck stretched high.
He looked between her and Honeymaren. His tail twitched as his eyes wandered.
“Anyway,” Elsa’s attention sheepishly returned. “How can we help you?”
“Oh, of course!” She batted her hand. Honeymaren shifted as she dug through her coat pocket. “I have this for you; from down by the river.”
She withdrew a small sack of burlap, displaying it at the center of her palm. Honeymaren held it out to Elsa, and watched her take it into her hands.
“What is it?” She mused. Elsa undid the ties.
As the fabric unfolded, a bit of dark red powder appeared. It looked soft to the touch, like sand; though it's grainy discoloration most resembled crushed stone.
Elsa’s brow narrowed. She replaced the ties and turned back to Honeymaren.
“During the taming of the giants, Ryder and I noticed this powder all over our clothes. It stretched all along the bank of the river. We weren’t sure what to make of it. It is unlike any natural element we have seen in the forest before. So, I made the decision to bring what we could salvage back to the elders for them to assess.”
With a slow nod, Elsa replaced the sack at her bedside. “Interesting…” She mused.
“Are you upset with me?”
Honeymaren’s nose had pulled to the side of her face. Her lips pursed, and her forehead wrinkled. Elsa watched as she wrung out her hands.
“No.” She breathed, feeling more than surprised. “Why would I be?”
“I should have told you sooner.” A sigh of relief escaped her chest. “You were busy, and I was worried that by turning the powder over to the elders before taking the time to explain... I thought I might have offended you.”
Elsa shook her head. “There is no need to worry. I am not offended!”
She patted her hand against Honeymaren’s knee before quickly shying away.
“Fears aside,” She cleared her throat. “What did the elders have to say?”
“They sent Hlif down to the river to investigate.” Honeymaren began. “He found what he believed were faint markings, just north of the falls. It was as if the powder had been used in some sort of foreign ritual. At least, that is what he has come to assume, anyway. I am afraid have not seen the markings for myself yet.”
Bruni leapt from Elsa’s shoulder when she suddenly went rigid. “Even more interesting…” She sang.
Displeased, and even more tired, Bruni crept from her lap and onto Honeymaren’s. He settled there with his head warm against her thigh. She smiled, feeling honored, and began to stroke his head.
As a child, Honeymaren had heard tales about the spirits; and how they lived alongside their ancestors. Despite this, she had never experienced the magic for herself before. Now, with Bruni trusting her well enough to sleep against her leg, Honeymaren felt blessed beyond measure.
Elsa, however, was distracted by her new knowledge. She hadn’t noticed her friend’s excitement, and was now standing on her feet. Elsa dropped her mother’s shall onto the corner chair, and stood before a small mirror.
“Oh! I should leave you!” Honeymaren began to fidget as she attempted to stand.
Bruni remained heavy in her lap, however. He burrowed into her, seemingly pleading for her to stay still.
“It is fine.” Elsa soothed.
In the blink of an eye, and with a quick flash of hands, her nightgown had transformed. Gone were the tangles of maroon fabric. In its place, her white-patterned dress had reappeared.
Honeymaren giggled at the display. “I always forget you can do that.”
“I can dress you up a bit, too. If you would like? Anna always enjoyed when I added my flair to her wardrobe.”
She blushed at Elsa’s teasing fingers. Honeymaren’s attention diverted. “Perhaps another time...”
Seeing her friend’s cheeks aflame, Elsa briefly wondered what she had said to make Honeymaren uncomfortable. The curiosity had her hands suddenly very warm, and her heart reeling in her chest. Elsa brushed her palms over her legs before hiding them at her back.
“Suit yourself.” She scaled her eyes and hid her ears into her shoulders. “So,” Elsa continued. “Shall we be going, then?”
“We are going somewhere?”
Honeymaren replaced Bruni against the bed. He spun twice until he settled amongst the blankets, and feigned an irritated yawn.
“We are. You and I are going to investigate those markings.” Elsa redrew her mother’s shall around her neck.
“You want me to come with you?” Honeymaren tried not to balk.
“Of course.” Elsa pointed. “I have yet to understand as much about this forest as you do, and besides, this was your discovery. You want to see it through to the end, don’t you?”
Her hands twitched at her waist. “And what of the giants?” Honeymaren asked.
“What about them? The giants have been tamed, and there is no indication that whatever happened yesterday will ever happen again.”
Honeymaren slowly nodded. “If you are certain.”
Elsa smiled. “I am! Now, come along! We are wasting daylight here.”
They started for the exit, and Elsa quickly opened the door to her hut. A passing calf was startled by their sudden appearance. It panicked, scattering, and backed into the door. It swung shut with force and Elsa toppled over her heels. She tripped into Honeymaren, nearly taking her down. Honeymaren caught her and had Elsa back on her feet in the blink of an eye. Embarrassment coursed through both women. Elsa swiftly pulled free from the hands at her back. She brushed the fallen hairs from her face, as a heated blush took to her cheeks.
“One thing remains one hundred percent certain, though. Mornings in Northuldra are much different than they were back in Arendelle.”
“I can only imagine.” Honeymaren laughed, and trying again, Elsa held the door for her.
“I will have to show you sometime.” Elsa whispered, and she turned away as Honeymaren passed her by.
It was the same time in Arendelle. Daylight had barely begun to greet the small village. Birds were now awake. The bakery had opened, and Queen Anna, once again, was headed across the square.
This time, Kristoff was stationed at her side. His hand was warm on her back. He paid no mind to the people and their stares as he led Anna straight through the masses.
The two passed by the flower stall. They accepted the polite nod in greeting from the blacksmith and his wife. Even still, no one approached them; not even the children who hid at their parents’ backs. The villagers gave their space, and anxiously watched as their queen and her prince consort make their way toward the clinic.
There, the physician awaited them at the door.
“Your majesty,” He bowed, and allowed the couple to pass through.
“Doctor,” Anna turned to him. The door behind them closed.
They continued through to a small study at the rear of the clinic. The dimly-lit room was littered with old textbooks and mugs of stale tea. Anna settled in a corner chair, and Kristoff came to a halt behind her shoulder.
“What more do you have for us this morning?” She asked calmly.
Doctor Laugen, a young man in his early thirties, drew a hand along the back of his neck. Despite his young age, on this particular morning, the doctor appeared much older than he was. He had dark bags under his green eyes. His yellow hair was mused from lost sleep, and there was the fatigue; which had left him discolored.
In comparison, Anna assumed that she had looked about the same.
“We had another child come in during the night.” He began. “-a young boy this time; a six year old. I am afraid I cannot yet say how long this one will have left, before he, too, is taken.”
Anna’s blood ran cold, yet her composure maintained. “And you still believe this to be some type of influenza?”
His eyes fell away. “It is too early to know, but as with the girl from last night... this illness moves fast, much faster than any flu I have ever seen before.”
“Something troubles you?” Kristoff guessed, recognizing how the doctor’s thoughts moved behind his eyes.
He stepped forward, and Anna tensed in her chair.
Kristoff decidedly ignored her. “Doctor Laugen, if you know something, you must tell us.”
Laugen’s gaze returned. His eyes flickered amongst the lantern light.
“I know nothing,” He whispered. “-nothing at all. However, that is what frightens me most. Arendelle does not need another epidemic on its hands. Forty years ago, when the last illness spread, Arendelle lost more than a third of its population. With a summer as hot as this one, the people won’t stand a chance. If the illness doesn't take them, dehydration will.”
“An epidemic?” Anna’s eyes turned wide.
She glanced at Kristoff who mirrored her expression.
“We must learn whatever we can about this sickness.” Anna directed her words to the doctor. “Hearing rumor of an epidemic will send the village into a frenzy. I need something factual; something real to tell them. A hypothesis won’t do.”
“I will do what I can,” Doctor Laugen nodded. “-for the Kingdom of Arendelle, and for you, your majesty.”
“I appreciate you coming with me, by the way.” Elsa turned to Honeymaren. “I did not mean to make it sound like you had no say in the matter, of course.”
The two were headed back south. Elsa stationed atop of Nokk, and Honeymaren held at her side by horseback. The day was coming to a close, and the summer sun had begun to fade from the sky.
“It is not a problem.” Honeymaren assured her. “I am just sorry there was nothing left to find.”
Elsa’s shoulders pulled into her ears.
“Not nothing,” She said, and dangled the sacked-powder between them. “We still have this. The elders can complete their assessment, and perhaps learn something more within its contents.”
Honeymaren fell silent for a time. Her eyes drew up high towards the trees. The warm sun hit her face, and she grinned.
“May I ask you something?” She finally spoke.
Honeymaren’s gaze had yet to return from the clouds. That left Elsa with a rare moment to admire her. The way her skin shown like liquid gold in this light, and how her face appeared, as if carved by nature itself. The Northuldra were remarkable people...
“Of course.” Elsa remembered to answer, and she quickly turned away.
Honeymaren’s attention returned. “Do you feel at home here, Elsa?”
Elsa blinked. Her jaw wavered. “I- I suspect I do.”
“With me?” Honeymaren continued, her voice holding barely above a whisper. She watched Elsa’s eyes widen in response, and she quickly retracted her statement. “-with all of us, I mean. Do you feel at home with the Northuldra?”
Her mouth hung open. “Oh…” Elsa breathed. Her hands twitched against the reins, and she dropped her gaze to view them. “I suppose I had not taken the time to consider that yet.”
“You don’t have to now!” Honeymaren assured her, batting her hands for effect. After, though, she settled, and Honeymaren’s face pulled low. “-not now, but..”
“But, what?” Elsa encouraged her.
With a sigh, Honeymaren fought for Elsa’s eyes. They locked on to hers, and she tried again. “-but I do worry that if you weren’t comfortable here, you wouldn’t feel confident enough to tell me. I know you are content to be our bridge, though, I am concerned you don't trust us. I worry you might be lonely, but have been too afraid to seek us out.”
Elsa couldn’t look away. At some point, Honeymaren had seen through her mask. She had seen through to the parts of Elsa that lay in constant debate between Northuldra, and a home back in Arendelle. Honeymaren saw her conflict, her regret, and her redundant thoughts. She saw her hurt, and now it pained Elsa to think she may have offended her by it.
“I- I don’t know what to say.” Elsa admitted.
Blushing, Honeymaren shook her head. “No, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. I-”
“Ladies!” A top of his reindeer stead, Ryder drove in at their side. His cheeks pulled up in a grin as he looked between them eagerly. “What have you two been up to?”
Both women turned silent. Elsa’s eyes remained diverted, and Honeymaren responded by doing the same.
“Am I interrupting something?” Ryder questioned, and when Honeymaren’s reply never came; Elsa cleared her throat.
“No, no, of course not.” She quickly assured him. Her poised demeanor returned. “Though, I do have something which requires my attention. So, if you’ll both excuse me. I will talk with you later.”
From there, to gone. Elsa had pulled up on Nokk’s reins and was but a blur out of sight.
They watched her go. She drove through the trees, and Honeymaren visibly tensed.
“No really,” Ryder stressed. “What am I missing? Did I say something stupid again?”
Honeymaren rolled her eyes. “You didn’t say anything.” Her head shook. “It was me who did.”
“What did you say? Was it embarrassing?” Ryder teased.
“No.” She scolded, and her arms crossed.
Sensing his sister would say no more, Ryder frowned. “I see… well, gotcha…” His grip tightened against the reindeer’s fur.
“So, anyway…hey, Mare!” His head pulled into his shoulders. Ryder’s eyes circled high. “I wanted to throw something passed you. I was wondering...what do you think about, maybe, I mean, could you possibly-”
“Out with it, Ry!” Honeymaren called him out.
“Okay, okay.” He sighed, and hid his blush behind an open hand. “I was wondering... what you might think of me... asking... for Elsa’s hand?”
Honeymaren’s horse came to a quick halt. “What?” She balked.
“I mean, look at it this way. Elsa is single. I am single. She is one of us, which makes it totally cool by elder standards, and she is the only one around here who doesn't know about my training accident!”
“You are out of your mind!” Honeymaren stopped him.
Quickly, she pulled back on the reins and steered her horse away.
“What? Why?” Ryder demanded.
“Elsa is the fifth spirit!” Her words directed over her shoulder. “She walks like a goddess amongst our people. Why would she wed a Northuldra like us?”
“Hey! Someone has to!” He shouted, but Honeymaren had galloped from sight.
“I could be a god!” He chuffed again, and then a slow grin spread across his cheeks. “Yeah! Ryder, the God of reindeer... I like it! What do you think, Dahl?”
The reindeer beneath him rolled his eyes. “I think you’re an idiot...”
Ryder sighed and crossed his arms. “Who asked you anyway?”
Just your friendly PSA here - There is no current method to my madness. Chapters will come when them come. I usually have something a little more formal in place, but, as of now, I am just going with the flow. There could be updates everyday. They could happen once a week. For now, just enjoy what you have, and I'll do what I can to post chapters as frequently as possible.
As for updates - see vannminner on Tumblr / Twitter.
Chapter three will be out as early as tomorrow, or as late as Saturday afternoon. We shall see.
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: Of the Earth
“The likelihood that this illness is airborne grows less plausible each day.”
“Then what other explanations do we have left? We have more patients coming through that door than we have walking out.”
A week had passed since Arendelle’s first two cases of the mysterious illness. Another six had since followed. In each instance, a child was brought into the clinic with, what appeared to be, flu-like symptoms. They came in for care; for stomach pain and nausea. Yet, not a single one had left on their feet.
Anna’s station at Doctor Laugen’s side had become a frequent occurrence. As Queen of Arendelle, she saw it in her responsibility to support each and every family that came through the doors. More than that, she felt it was her job to get to the bottom of it; to find a cure, a culprit. Or to risk falling gravely ill, herself.
“We have exhausted our efforts, your majesty.” Doctor Laugen replied. “Airborne pathogens would leave whole families susceptible. Even our weakest and eldest population would not have the power to withstand this disease. No. Whatever is causing this, it is environmental. It is in our food; our water, perhaps. It is destroying our youngest from the inside out.”
“Our food?” Anna frowned. “What you are describing sounds intentional. Are you saying you believe someone in Arendelle to be responsible for all of this?”
The doctor shrugged. “Perhaps not.” He sighed. “What we are dealing with could be as simple as a bad fish supply, or as complicated as infected waters. I have read of something like this taking its toll on big cities in Southern Europe. If one waterway is contaminated, there can be serious repercussions.”
Dragging a hand over her face, Anna shook her head. “I cannot tell our people to avoid the markets without just-proof. I need more than that! The little we do know has already caused a panic. It is not fair to the families to keep them on edge like this.”
Doctor Laugen turned his face towards the door. Outside of his office, there were more than a dozen patients and their parents; each one of them awaiting answers as desperately as Queen Anna. She was asking the doctor for too much, and Anna knew it.
“Just, please. So what you can.” She pleaded, and Anna stepped toward the exit.
Briefly, she froze. Her fingers suspended over the door handle. Anna spun back toward the doctor and bit her lip.
Her hand came to rest lightly against Laugen’s shoulder. “Thank you for what you are doing here.” Anna offered him a small grin. “I know you are doing the best you can, and I appreciate all your efforts.”
Doctor Laugen nodded, and Anna pulled away. She left his office with her chin high. Her eyes held straight ahead. She, once again, avoided the stares of patients, and dodged each hopeful glance. Right now, she had nothing for them, and she worried she would fail them as their new queen.
Kristoff awaited her outside the clinic. Sven stood calmly at his side. They both looked up, impatient, and stepped forward as Anna came out the exit.
“Any changes?” Kristoff asked. Sven chuffed with his nose against Anna’s hand.
She gave him a quick pat. “No, I am afraid not.”
She sighed, and her husband took her under his arm.
He slowly began leading them back towards the castle. “It might be time we bring Elsa down from the North…”
Anna nodded, sighing at the thought. “Unfortunately, I was thinking the same thing. Afterall, only Ahtohallan knows.”
“Cinnabar?” Elsa frowned. “I have never heard of it before.”
With her brows pinched, she came to her knees. Elsa leaned in close, holding the lantern over head. She examined the red powder under the glass, and released a small sigh.
“It is a Spanish ore used for paints and glazes.” Elder, Brandr, explained. “You may touch it, if you wish. It is harmless.”
The powder appeared fine, yet held a coarseness under her fingertip. Cinnabar was moist to the touch. It was as if it had soaked up water from the river, and had yet to dry out.
“Strange…” Elsa mused. She returned to her feet and stepped back. “Spain, you say? How did it come to find us here?”
Brandr turned to Hilf, his eldest son and aspiring scholar. “I am afraid, that, we do not know.”
“However, with the forest no longer hidden by the mist, there may be travelers from other parts of the world that have come to find these lands.”
It was Yelena who spoke next. The four had gathered at her goahti to discuss the elders’ findings. They deemed it best to keep any information about the disturbances to themselves until they had something more concrete to tell the people. For now, life in Northuldra had returned to normal. The giants had settled, and no further markings had been found throughout their lands.
“Foreign ores, such as this one, are also used in spiritual practices in the communities to our east. People will pay good money to export European ores for use in their sacred ceremonies, and other rituals.” Hilf explained.
As Elsa had come to learn, most of their history had been passed down through Northuldra generations. All their knowledge spanned across many years, and even more people. It was quite similar to how libraries were compiled back in Arendelle. However, the Northuldra had a forty year gap in which no new information was established. Elsa dared not to call it a deficit, but much had changed in the world since the mist drifted in. If this powder and the symbols were not traditional to the forest, there was a great likelihood they were dealing with something, or someone, foreign to these lands.
“What information do we have on these rituals?” Elsa asked.
Hilf came forward with a hand-rendered scripture. “We lack specifics.” He sighed. “I am afraid most of these practices belong to new-age religions, meaning their beliefs are ever-changing. As with the Northuldra, we rely on nature to form and guide our communal instincts. We yield our spiritual essence from the properties of magic found in our lands. However, with the dawn of a new-age, there are people out there who seek to profit from the creation of magic.”
“The creation of magic?” Elsa huffed. “Well, that is not much to go by. I have never heard of anyone having the ability to conjure magic before.”
“-and it may not even be possible.” Yelena stepped in. “Though, that will not stop people from trying.”
Elsa turned the parchment towards her. Hlif had compiled the drawings he'd found along the river. They reminded Elsa of the engravings she had found on the headstones at the entrance to the Enchanted Forest, and of the same ones found on her mother's shall. They were more complicated than that, however. Where lines crossed and new scriptures started; these drawings resembled that of a puzzle more likely.
“And what of the symbols? Am I to assume they belong to these new practices as well?”
Shrugging, Hilf directed a hand behind his neck. “There is no way for us to know. As Yelena has said, we are exposed to the outside world now. Anyone, with any belief, could wander in here.”
“But undetected?” Elsa shook her head. “That cannot be! I trust the spirits to show me the truth; to guide me towards that which does not belong here.”
“Perhaps they do not know, themselves.” Yelena cut in. “For as long as we have been isolated, so have they.”
Silence filled the small hut as Elsa mulled over her thoughts. So much here, was unknown. Modern science would fall victim to the same dead-ends. Not even the Northulda and their records could explain. Yet, one question still weighed heaviest.
“The earth giants.” Elsa’s brow pulled low, and her eyes caught in the light of the dim lantern. “Those markings and this powder; could they not be what caused the giants to rebel?”
With a steady breath, Yelena came to sit at Elsa’s side. “My dear, I have lived alongside the spirits for a near half of my life. I have both loved and feared them. From this, I have learned that nothing in nature is certain. Things are not always as they appear. However, if there is one aspect of these lands that I know I can trust, it is that the forest is ever-learning. If there is something here for which does not belong, we shall know soon enough.”
Her hand came to rest on top of Elsa’s. “Only Ahtohallan knows.”
A tiny grin teased at Elsa’s cheeks. “I believe I have somewhere I need to be, then.”
“It would appear so.” Yelena squeezed Elsa’s fingers before removing her hand. “Now go, dear child. Be one with the wind and sky.”
Elsa nodded. Feeling full, her confidence soared as she said her goodbyes and gave her thanks. She left the goahti with heightened spirits, yet made it no more than four feet before she was stopped once again- this time, with much more force.
Honeymaren had appeared out of nowhere. Her hand corded around Elsa’s forearm, and she dragged her between two huts. There, they were hidden from the villagers gathered in the clearing. As an added measure, Honeymaren tucked Elsa’s back into the trunk of a tree; where no one would be witness to their seemingly secret meeting.
“What, um. What are you doing?” Elsa balked. Her eyes held wide in confusion.
Honeymaren’s hand came to cover Elsa’s mouth and she glared. She was standing right on top of her, their torsos a mere inch apart.
“Shh,” She pleaded. “Listen to me. There is something you must see!”
“See what?” Her words muffled against the palm pressed to her lips. Honeymaren released her, and she tried again. “See what? What is going on?”
Honeymaren responded by dragging Elsa closer to the treelines, and away from the busy village. Once hidden in the forest, she turned to Elsa once more.
“What did the elders say?” Honeymaren asked. “Everyone is anxious, and Yelena will not tell them anything. But they know something; they must!” She shook her head clear. “That is not important right now. Anyway, please hurry! You have to come with me.”
Elsa tried to shrug from her hold, but Honeymaren's grasp persisted.
Irritated, her voice rose sharply. “The elders know nothing! They have nothing to say. I am heading to Ahtohallan to find the truth. If the village must know something, tell them we are doing the best we can.”
As Elsa tried to move past her, Honeymaren tugged back. “You have been to Ahtohallan already! There were no answers for you there.”
Elsa rolled her eyes. “It is not a telegram. I cannot make the truth appear for me by simply pushing buttons and asking.”
She stifled a growl. Honeymaren’s eyes burned with annoyance, and Elsa had never seen her in quite this way; a mix of impassioned and enraged.
“Listen to me.” She begged. Her tense whisper wavered at Elsa’s ears. “You must come with me now, please. There is something you should see, but we cannot yet tell the elders.”
Elsa wanted to argue. She wanted to tell Honeymaren that there were more important things she had to do; things in which would better serve the forest. Yet, Elsa could not bring herself to do so. She had come to trust Honeymaren; her unique instincts and beliefs. Elsa believed Honeymaren to be a new sort of family for her; her family outside of Arendelle. And by tell of the desperate look on Honeymaren’s face, Elsa knew she should give in.
“Alright.” She finally nodded. “You may show me.”
Honeymaren released an appreciative sigh. “Great!” She cheered. “Now, come with me!”
Elsa yelped as she was forcefully directed down the hill. Honeymaren had her running, Elsa’s arm still laced between her fingers.
Elsa stumbled as she raced to keep up. “Fifth spirit or not, I am still mortal. Ease up on the arm, could you?”
However, Honeymaren did not listen. She sprinted between trees and over rocks, leaving Elsa scrambling behind her.
“This way!” She encouraged her. Honeymaren pulled them into a hard left.
Elsa decided to keep her discomfort to herself. Seeing her friend near-panic, Elsa now sensed the urgency in Honeymaren’s actions. She began following as close to her heels as she could manage, and had a hard lock on all her other comments.
It was only a few more feet before they came to a drastic stop. Elsa skidded against the dirt, catching herself against a tree. She winced. Her hands scratched at the bark, and missing the opportunity to complain; Elsa was spun the other way.
Ryder was there now. Elsa had to blink to clear her vision, but there he was, looking as cheery as ever.
“Are we going?” He asked from a top his reindeer, Dahl.
Honeymaren ignored him. “Get on.” She instructed.
Elsa blinked and her eyes enlarged. “I beg your pardon?”
“Stop being stubborn!” Honeymaren’s hands snatched at Elsa’s waist.
She hoisted her onto the back of the reindeer and slid in behind her.
“Are we good to go?” Ryder asked.
Elsa’s protests were drowned out by Honeymaren’s reply. The deer had lurched forward. The three squeezed together, and suddenly, they were off.
Glaring, Elsa turned her head over her shoulder. “Yesterday, you asked if I felt at home here. Well, now I can confidently say, no one at home has ever dragged me down a hill and threw me on the back of a reindeer before!”
Honeymaren mimicked her stare. “It is not my fault you are always so stubborn!”
“Ladies! Ladies!” Ryder called overhead. “There is no need for hostilities!”
Both women grumbled in response.
Elsa crossed her arms. “Can you at least tell me where we are going?” She demanded.
“You shall see soon enough.” Honeymaren replied.
However, soon enough did not come as quickly as Elsa would have liked. They were riding the length of the valley, North. Even with the reindeer exhausting all four legs, Elsa could have gone faster by Nokk. That thought was moot now. She was fashioned between the two siblings in the middle of the forest. It was mid-day, and the summer sun was hot, yet all three were kept cool by the wind coming in from off the Dark Sea.
Long minutes passed by. How many minutes, was entirely unknown. The deer continued at full speed until they reached the peak of a great rock ledge. From there, the ground continued to roll downward, leading them back toward the river.
Dahl slowed at the hilt of the falls, and Honeymaren leapt from his back.
She spun to Elsa with hands on her hips. “Well?” She sang.
Elsa’s head tilt as she frowned. “Well, what?” She stepped onto the ground.
Elsa approached Honeymaren slowly, and assessed their surroundings with a calm and wandering gaze. Everything appeared normal. It was quiet. There were no strange markings, nor powder found on the ground. Yet, Honeymaren continued to stare at Elsa as if she were missing something obvious.
“I don’t understand. What am I not seeing here?” She asked. Her face stayed intentionally blank.
“Yes!” Honeymaren cheered. She jumped into the air. Taking Elsa’s shoulders between her hands, Honeymaren shook her erratically. “That is exactly it! What are you not seeing?”
Ryder was suddenly at Elsa’s back. His finger pointed out over her head. “About that tall…” He explained. “-big… some might say, giant… made of rock… ”
“The earth giants?” Elsa dryly guessed. Her arms crossed defiantly.
“Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner!” He beamed.
Shaking her head, Elsa pulled from the pair. “What about them?”
“What about them!” Honeymaren scoffed. “Oh, I don’t know. Ryder, do you see a thirty foot tall earth giant anywhere?”
He shook his head and hummed. “You know, Mare, I do not!”
“Down by the shore?” She continued.
“How about, in the meadow?”
Honeymaren turned to Elsa sharply. “Are you catching on yet?”
Elsa had turned silent as she walked to the face of the cliff. Her eyes scanned the low riverbanks. They pulled high to the tops of the Scots Pine. Finally, she turned.
“Gone?” She gasped. “As in, they have disappeared?”
Honeymaren stepped forward with her eyes circling playfully. “Well, let’s not go that far.”
“I tracked them out to the eastern border.” Ryder explained.
Elsa’s brows drew low. She shook her head. “The eastern border? But that’s the end of the forest; the end of Northuldra territory…”
“Finally!” Honeymaren sighed. “You have finally caught on to our dilemma.”
Though teasing, Elsa knew Honeymaren was worried. She could make sense of the fear held behind her dark brown eyes.
The earth giants were leaving the forest, and not one of them knew what could happen in consequence.
So, I waited a few days to update, and allowed writing to take priority. I've got a new and updated outline going now, and this thing is starting to look pretty ugly. If you like a lot of banter, copious amounts of unhealthy drama, and hairsplitting slow-burn angst... feel free to subscribe. I decided to take things... way too fucking far.
I've written up to chapter eight, I believe. And I plan to keep that headway as I move forward. (Ie. For every chapter I post, I will write two more.) I figured that should keep my pacing to at least two to three chapter updates a week, and I am fairly confident I can stick with that.
Chapter 4: Part One - Of the Flame
Where Magic Flows
Part One: Of the Flame
As the sun set on Arendelle, the last light of day glistened upon the fjords. Waves rippled against the shore. The fishermen retreated from the docks, and the villagers returned to their homes.
At the same time, Elsa arrived in Arendelle. Avoiding a scene and lost time with her sister, she decided to sneak in. Nokk carried her up to the rocks surrounding the palace, and bowed to let her off.
Elsa pat his head. “I will see you again soon.” She promised.
Nokk neighed and crooned against her hand. Then he faded back into the waves.
She turned. Her eyes lifted to view the castle. Rays of light cascaded around the stone walls, creating a halo above their peaks. It was as if a beacon had formed to call Elsa home. She raked in a deep breath and grinned. Whether it was the thought of seeing her sister after weeks apart, or the warmth of the kingdom and its people; Arendelle would always be her home.
Anna must have been waiting at the entry for her. Elsa had barely made it through the doors before she was tackled into a hug. Anna’s arms latched around hers. She held her still and buried her face into Elsa’s hair.
“You are here!” Anna sighed.
She went limp in Elsa’s hold. For more minutes than either felt passing, they simply clung to each other.
“I have missed you.” Anna grinned, and pulled back to see her sister’s face.
Hands went to her hair, fluffing it, and laying each strand flat. “I missed you, too, so much.” Elsa took Anna’s fingers between hers.
She was led towards the main hall. Their hands swung between them.
“Gerda baked fresh bread and made a vegetable stew. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.” Elsa squeezed Anna closer.
Her ear came to rest against Elsa’s shoulder, and she brought her arms around Elsa’s waist. “I am sorry about last week. Something came up. You know I wouldn’t reschedule if I didn’t have to.”
Smiling, Elsa drew her fingers down Anna’s back. “I understand. Besides, I am here now, and so happy to be with you.”
“You are!” Anna cheered. “You should visit twice next week to make up for it.”
Elsa giggled. “I like the way you think.”
Anna released her before opening the door to the dining hall. Inside, the warmth of a roaring fire soothed against Elsa’s skin. The tables had been set. It was a simple spread with sweet bread and dried meat. It was simple for Arendelle, anyway.
Meals in Northuldra were vastly different. They were usually enjoyed in passing. Only during dinner did most of the village convene together. Additionally, it was the women who hunted, harvested, and then prepared most of their foods. One person saw through their meals from beginning to end, and Elsa found that fascinating.
“Ah! Miss Elsa!” Gerda approached from the kitchen. Her arms held wide in greeting, and Elsa accepted the hug. “You are looking well. Are you eating enough?”
“I am.” Elsa nodded as she was released. “Though, I cannot say I haven’t missed your home cooked meals.”
Gerda grinned. “That’s my good girl. Now, sit tight. You won’t have to waste another minute. I shall leave the two of you time to catch up.”
Gerda’s hand briefly squeezed against Anna’s shoulder before she departed. Both women waited until she had gone, and then sat before their meal.
“So, how are you? How is Arendelle?” Elsa didn’t waste a minute. Her eyes were on Anna as she sipped at her tea.
Something in Elsa’s tone struck Anna as odd. Her sister was rushed. Her thoughts were elsewhere, and her eyes traveled away with them. Even Elsa’s hand corded too tight around her mug. The knuckles bore white, and her smile shown a tad forced.
“I am good. Arendelle is good.” Anna feigned.
She did not have to be a good liar in this scenario; only a better liar than her sister.
“That is good to hear, then.” Elsa teased, and smiled at Anna behind the brim of her cup. “And where is your husband ?”
Anna fought the blush coursing across her cheeks.
She and Kristoff had been married three months prior. However, Anna could not calm the butterflies that ran rampant in her chest every time she heard his new title.
“Kristoff will join us shortly.” Anna cleared her throat, hoping not to give too much away. “He was taking care of a few things for me down in the village.”
Biting into a bit of bread, Elsa nodded. “How far our valliant reindeer king has come. Did you just say he was assisting you with royal duties?”
Anna waved her fork at Elsa. “Yes, but don’t tease him! He may stop helping me all together.”
Elsa laughed and shook her head. “No. He wouldn’t.”
“You’re right.” Anna agreed. "He wouldn't."
She felt warm knowing Elsa supported her marriage to Kristoff. Sure, Anna had given her sister more time to get used to the idea; this time around, anyway. Nonetheless, Elsa had blessed the ceremony, and even gave the first toast to the happy couple.
Enjoying the togetherness, the two fell silent for a time. The piles of food between them shortened. And despite all her other concerns, Anna’s eyes continued drifting to Elsa’s. Elsa was keeping something from her. Anna could tell. Her sister was mowing through bread like she was using it to keep her mouth shut.
“So…” Anna sang nonchalantly. “How is the forest? Are Honeymaren and the others doing well?”
Elsa didn’t immediately answer. She took her time to chew her food and swallow before lifting her eyes.
Across from her, Elsa could see Anna’s impatience. Her sister saw right through her; clear through her mask. Anna’s eyes never wavered from hers. All of her attention fixed on Elsa, and Elsa wondered why she even bothered trying to hide things from Anna at all.
“I cannot lie to you, Anna.” She released with a breath. “And it would be untruthful to tell you that everything is fine.”
Anna frowned. She leaned forward over her elbows. “What’s wrong?”
Elsa shrugged and looked away. “There was a disturbance amongst the earth giants.”
“A disturbance?” Anna widened her eyes. “What happened?”
Sitting back into her chair, Elsa replayed the events of the last week for her sister. She told her about the giants’ disappearance, and about the mysterious markings down by the river. Anxiously, she told Anna about Ahtohallan, and how she hadn’t been able to locate any answers yet. Elsa was finishing the wrap-up on her week when Kristoff finally strode into the hall.
He greeted her with a quick wave, and then kissed Anna’s cheek.
“Ladies,” Kristoff sat. “So, what have we been talking about here?"
Anna looked wordlessly at Elsa, wondering if she should share. Elsa merely nodded, and her attention pulled back down to her soup.
“Elsa has been experiencing some complications in the forest. The earth giants departed-”
“-but I am going to call them back.” Elsa quickly defended.
“Of course,” Anna flashed her sister a grin. “I have faith in you, Elsa; we both do. There is no limit to what you can accomplish with your heart, and your powers combined.”
Shaking her head, Elsa cleared her blush as it formed. “See, this is why I miss Arendelle. My Anna-pep-talks always got me through another day.”
“Well, there are more where that came from. I plan to make up for lost time.”
The sister’s shared a smile, and Anna reached across the table to squeeze Elsa’s hand.
The three finished their meals. Their chatter had turned casual, and Kristoff stretched back into his chair.
He fought a yawn. “Shall we, ladies? If we don’t get this game night started, I’m afraid I may fall asleep on this buffet.”
“Don’t you dare.” Anna giggled. “We can’t have that! Why don’t you go prepare the fire in the lounge, and I will ask Gerda to start another pot of tea?”
“I can do that!” Elsa stood from her chair. “Go on, I will meet you both in there.”
“You better get your game face ready!” Anna called, watching as Elsa disappeared into the kitchen.
Kristoff squeezed a hand against Anna’s shoulder. She turned to him with a pale face. Anna was missing her usual light this evening. Sadness clouded her eyes, and the haze rolled in thicker once Elsa left the room.
“I am assuming you have not told her yet?”
Anna shook her head. “No. Elsa is dealing with so much right now. I don’t want to add to her list of things to be worried about.”
“Anna,” Kristoff sighed. “You have to tell her. This illness is dangerous. In the least, you have to warn her about it.”
Looking away, Anna brought her hands into her lap. “I am the Queen of Arendelle now. This is my home, and my responsibility.”
Kristoff touched her chin. With a single finger, he lifted Anna’s eyes to meet his. “Both your sister and I are here to help you, Anna. Having a new title doesn’t change that. Not for you, and not for Elsa. Just as you want to help her, Elsa wants to be there for you as well.”
Anna turned, flattening her cheek against Kristoff’s hand. She felt his fingers brush against the skin of her jaw, and Anna shivered.
“I will talk to her.” She promised.
“Good,” Kristoff nodded with a grin. He leaned forward and placed his lips lightly against his wife’s. “Now, shall we go to the lounge?”
He stood. His hand extended and he held it out for Anna to take.
Anna looked at the hand, but she didn’t move. “Could you give me a minute, please?” She squeezed his fingers before offering him a reassuring nod. “I’ll be there in just a second.”
“Of course, my lady.” Kristoff playfully bowed. “But know, I will start looking through those charades cards you made if you are not there in five minutes.”
Anna rolled her eyes as she watched him go, and her soft laughter faded when the door shut behind him.
Stretching back into her seat, Anna reeled in a deep breath. Very slowly, she came to her feet. Her legs bobbled a bit. Her knees quivered uneasily, and a fog of darkness rushed to her brain. Anna gripped the table for support. With her eyes closed, she allowed the darkness to take over. Her nails scratched into the wood as she fought for balance.
When Anna released a sigh, the dizzy spell faded. As quickly as it had come on, her trance had fallen away.
She shook from the sensation and released the table. Anna nodded to herself. She grit her teeth, and strode from the dining hall with her chin held confidently high.
Hands fought for the spoon at the center of a small tea table. Anna swatted Kristoff away, and clutched the silver to her chest. Excitement filled her body. Yet, before she could yell out her feat, the spoon was pulled from Anna’s grasp. Ice worked it way up the stem of the spoon and it sailed across the room into Elsa’s hand.
“Hey! No magic!” Anna shouted.
“I don’t believe we established those rules. Did we, Kristoff?” Elsa gleamed, dangling the spoon between her two fingers.
“I am not getting involved.” He deadpanned, and Kristoff pushed himself away from the table.
Anna grumbled. “I don’t think I like this game.”
“It’s okay, Anna.” Elsa patted her sister’s knee. “You know, very few people are good at family games; that’s just a fact.”
Anna pushed Elsa’s hand away as she giggled.
“Okay, okay, I asked for that one.” She surrendered. “So, what’s next? Charades? I could go for another round! Oh! Or Kristoff, didn’t you pick up that game from Oaken’s with those dangerous looking dart things?”
Both Elsa and Kristoff began to squirm.
“Actually,” He sang. “It is getting pretty late. I thought I would hit the hay, and let you two ladies stay and chat… give you time to talk about that thing, perhaps…”
“Thing?” Elsa’s eyes widened. “There’s a thing? What thing?”
“It is nothing!” Anna defended. “It’s less than a thing; a small thing. What is that? A thinglet?”
“Well, that’s not exactly true.” Kristoff sighed, and squeezed his wife’s shoulder. “It is most definitely ‘thing’ sized.”
Elsa stood up with her hands wringing at her waist. “I knew it! I knew something was up. I could feel it, but I was too distracted by my own thoughts to read between the lines. There was something you weren’t telling me! And there I was, ranting about my own things! I can be so dense sometimes-”
“Hey, woah, woah, hey!” Anna quickly rose, taking her sister’s arms between two hands. “This isn’t like you; this ranting. It’s okay! I just didn’t want you to worry.”
“Worry me?” Her voice lifted. Elsa tried to step back but Anna’s grip held firm. “This is a serious thing, then?”
Hands suddenly very heavy, Anna allowed them to fall away. She crossed the room on shuffled feet, and her fingers splayed along the window glass.
She sighed against it. “I am afraid it is... pretty serious...”
“Tell me,” Elsa whispered, approaching Anna's side.
Kristoff cleared his throat from his spot by the door. “I will, uh, give you two a minute. It was nice to see you, Elsa.”
She nodded to him. “You too, Kristoff.”
Once he had gone, Elsa withdrew their mother’s shall from hiding. She wrapped it around Anna’s shoulders and listened to her sigh.
Anna crooned into the fabric. “Thank you.” She whispered, and her eyes returned.
“It is your week. I would not forget.”
Elsa watched Anna’s nose bury deep into the silk. She breathed. Her eyes briefly closed.
“Come,” Elsa instructed. “Let’s sit.”
She led Anna back to the couch. Elsa sat first before pulling Anna under her arm. Their heads fell together. Their elbows linked beneath the shall, and Anna squeeze Elsa in a show of relief.
“There is an illness spreading through Arendelle.” Anna finally divulged. “The village children are dying, and there is nothing the doctor nor I can do to stop it.”
“What?” Elsa’s reply came at but a breath.
Anna turned to Elsa with her lips pulled to the side. “I am sorry, Elsa. I am failing you. You put your faith in me to protect Arendelle, but I have let you down.”
“Hey now,” Elsa soothed. She brushed Anna’s fallen hairs from her face. “You are not responsible for this.”
Anna turned her cheek. Her eyes fell to the floor. “Nothing like this happened when you were the queen.”
Elsa shook her head and pulled Anna in closer. “No, perhaps not. I did, however, cast an eternal winter over the kingdom, destroy thousands of crops, and damage the livestock.”
Anna frowned. “Why didn’t I know the rest of that?”
“Because you didn’t need to. I took care of it.” Elsa touched her sister’s nose. “All I am saying is- we are all given our own hands in life. We are all tested in different ways.”
Anna remained silent. Her head fell to Elsa’s chest, and she snuggled into the sound of its beating.
“Illnesses happen.” Elsa continued. “They strike villages all over the world. They run their course and-”
Shaking her head against Elsa’s chest, Anna frowned. “This illness is different. It’s not spreading through the air. It has traveled through our food, or our water... Everyone is worried, and I don’t have any answers for them.”
Elsa hummed. The vibrations carried up and through Anna’s ear.
“What do you need from me?” Elsa asked. “Do you need me to address Arendelle? Should I go to Ahtohallan and try and find you answers?”
Her head rose quickly. Anna’s tired eyes found Elsa’s blues. “You would do that for me?”
“Of course.” Elsa smiled. “We do this together, remember?”
The barest hint of a blush tinted Anna’s cheeks. “I have missed you.” She sighed, and pulled back into her sister’s arms.
Elsa’s ride back to Northuldra was unusually warm. The day’s humidity lingered, causing the air to stick to her skin. Nokk could feel it, too. His footsteps weighed heavy against the earth, yet he galloped along peacefully without complaint.
The two found their solace in the clear night sky.
“I could get used to this.” Elsa whispered to him.
She relaxed back on her hands, and her eyes held high toward the stars.
“It is peaceful.” She smiled.
The calm of the evening was a welcomed change of pace; when compared to all that had transpired back in Arendelle. As it appeared, both Elsa and her sister were facing problems. The only difference was, Anna's problems had carried along a tome of death notices with it.
Elsa's eyes watered at the thought.
When she agreed to stay in Northuldra, Elsa believed she had made the right decision. She knew she had a responsibility to the people and the spirits, but she had a commitment to honor with her sister, as well. Now, she was conflicted. Her heart was being ripped in half. She had a family in Arendelle, but there was family in Northuldra now, too.
"What to do?" She groaned.
The night sky twinkled in reply, and Yelena’s words began to echo through her mind. Elsa's heart expanded in her chest.
“I am one with the wind and sky.” She felt herself calm.
The spirits were guiding her, just as Elsa was guiding herself. Together with this new power, she could serve Arendelle, and still solve the secrets of the forest.
Elsa breathed and allowed herself to be captivated by the stars once more.
With her eyes transfixed above, Elsa did not realize when Nokk suddenly slowed. His head was turning erratically to each side when Elsa pulled herself up.
He sensed something.
“What is it?” She reached for his neck. “What is wrong?”
Nokk brayed, deep and loud. He pulled his weight back onto his rear legs. His front hooves kicked toward the sky, and Elsa fought to catch herself against the reins.
That was when Gale appeared.
Gale poured through the trees with a tempest force. She snaked around the earth before making her way to Elsa. Swirling and spiralling, Gale moved up the Nokk’s legs. She braided into Elsa’s hair and stole her attention.
The Nokk whined fearfully, and he kicked at Gale with his hoof. Elsa reached down to soothe him as Gale quickly darted away.
Elsa's hands replaced around the reins, and her knuckles pinched white.
“Go!” Elsa called to Nokk. “Follow the storm!”
Nokk quickly shook from his fear. He leapt into the air and advanced on Gale at a full-sprint.
Gale lead them through the forest, dodging between the trees. She made tailing her at night a challenge for Elsa. However, she had Nokk, and they both had their instincts.
Unfortunately, those instincts told Elsa where they were headed.
Something was wrong in Northuldra, and Elsa could only hope to arrive as fast as she could manage.
Chapter 5: Part Two - Of the Flame
As this is a fairly short chapter, update number six is in the works now. It will be available to read tomorrow. :)
Where Magic Flows
Part Two: Of the Flame
The Northuldra village had been overrun by the time Elsa arrived. Fire had taken to the goahtis and the trees. They had transformed into frightful beacons of magenta light amidst the early evening hours.
Flames spread through the village with vengeance. The clearing held more fire, than it did people. As a unit, the people scattered. They fought against the relentless inferno, and to Elsa; it appeared as if Northuldra had fallen under enemy siege.
Working quickly, the villagers passed pails of water along a human chain. With each pail, their weight grew heavier in their hands. Yet, the people never faltered. Water continued up to their homes, and they raced to put out the fires as fast as they possibly could.
Elsa did not stop to think. She drove Nokk through to the center of the village. There, the heart of the fire had taken root. She leapt from Nokk’s back. Her feet barely planted into the dirt. She spun on a coin, and began to extinguish the flames.
With the arrival of aide, the people filtered out of Elsa’s way. Their efforts moved down to the smaller buildings as their water chain continued.
Looking up, Honeymaren slid out of line. She raced toward Elsa, and came to a quick halt at her side.
“What happened while I was gone?” Elsa demanded. Her voice strained to carry over the chaos.
“It’s Bruni!” Honeymaren exclaimed. “He attacked the village right after dusk.”
“What?” Elsa balked. “What do you mean he attacked the village?”
Honeymaren shrugged and fled the direction of Elsa’s hands. With a blast, magic cast from her palms, as Elsa fought another fire.
“He came in from the forest, angered and chaotic. From one tree to another, he didn’t stop until everything had set ablaze!”
Frowning, Elsa dropped her hands and took Honeymaren’s. “Where is he now? I’ll tame him.”
Honeymaren’s gaze turned over her shoulder. She pointed.
Hurdling from tree to tree in the far off distance, was a speck of magenta light. In its wake, everything burned under hot flames. Ashes rained down from the sky. Sparks were sent flying. It would have been beautiful, had it not been so terrifying.
Elsa released Honeymaren. Two fingers lifted to her lips, and she whistled for Nokk. He returned to Elsa’s hip faster than one could blink. She took her arms around his neck, and swung into his saddle.
Elsa sent Honeymaren a grateful nod. “Get somewhere safe.” She instructed. “I will take care of this.”
Her heels dug into the belly of Nokk. Raising onto his rear legs, he leapt into a run. Straight through the fire, they disappeared. Honeymaren watched them go, extinguishing flames as they traveled East.
Bruni’s escapade had spanned further than Elsa would have liked. For as fast as she worked, Bruni ignited faster. His destruction led them off the trails. He turned and zagged through the trees with no rhyme nor reason.
It did not take long for Elsa to realize where Bruni was headed. Like the giants, he too, was racing to leave the forest.
This time, however, Elsa had the opportunity to call him back.
Elsa sang out into the trees, her melody wavering above the flames. Up ahead, the spreading slowed. Her song had reached Bruni’s ears, and Elsa saw she wasn’t far behind him.
With her hands white-knuckled around the reins, Nokk pushed his legs faster. Flames grew at his feet, while sparks tickled beneath his belly. Nokk hissed in response. He cowered as steam poured off his liquid skin. Nokk would evaporate if Elsa wasn’t careful. He would go as far as she asked him to, but Elsa knew it was not worth the risk.
She directed Nokk to slow before leaping from his back. Elsa pulled him a safe distance away from the flames, and brushed her hand along his nose. Nokk sighed into her, then his eyes grew frightfully wide. Elsa turned her back on him, and Nokk realized Elsa planned to leave him there alone. He brayed in retort. His feet fought to follow.
“Stay there!” Elsa called to him.
Nokk whined, but he begrudgingly obliged. He cowered away from the flames, finding solace in the untouched trees.
Elsa left him at a sprint. The soles of her shoes planted firmly into the ground, and she carried after the flames.
Nearing the meadow, Elsa spotted Bruni lingering high amongst the trees. He was disoriented. Bruni spiraled through the branches, creating rings of fire overhead. Leaves ignited. The air billowed with smoke. Bruni worked to drive a barrier between him and Elsa, ensuring he could get away if she got too close.
Elsa sang out to him again. Her voice caused Bruni to shudder. He shook his head, trying to clear the haze, as his colors dimmed back to green.
Elsa climbed up to him. Her hand wrapped around the bottom branch, and she swung herself into the tree. Bruni was still up too high, though. Below him, her movements caught his attention, and Bruni’s flames roared back to life.
Thinking quickly, Elsa sang to him for a third time. The melody shook him rigid, and Bruni came to a swift halt. Elsa’s hands braced the tree with ice. Frost coated along the branches. It drove up through the center of the trunk, and Bruni’s eyes widened as he fumbled.
His feet scratched at the bark. Scattered, he tried to outrun the ice. It slithered in his direction like a frozen snake, and backed him into a hole.
While Bruni was distracted, Elsa flung herself onto the top branch. Swinging feet over head, she landed with a thump besides him. Frightened, Bruni searched for somewhere to run, however, his feet slipped against the ice. His short nails and scaly skin were not meant for snow. He was born of flame, and as such; had no tolerance for winter.
Bruni hissed angrily. Fear darkened his eyes, and he spat back a ball of fire at Elsa’s chest.
Elsa dodged the flame. Her face pulled into a glare. She fired a ball of snow back at him, and wedged Bruni’s feet into the branch.
He had been trapped.
“It’s okay “ Elsa soothed. “It’s just me!”
Bruni frowned and his fear maintained. He quivered as Elsa slunk in closer. Bruni tried desperately to free himself from the icy hold, but it stuck fast. He began to panic, and Bruni’s colors flashed from magenta to green.
Seeing his distress, Elsa reached for him. She stretched across the tangles of twigs and leaves, and placed a hand to Bruni’s head.
His color briefly returned. However, his panic did not settle, and nor did Bruni’s anger. He nipped at Elsa’s fingers, coughing sparks at her hand.
“Ouch!” Elsa cried out. Her hand reeled back into a fist against her chest.
Elsa had taken the final hit in her attempt to tame Bruni. With both hands in unison, she worked her magic into the air. Elsa sent an orb of power reeling from her chest, and straight into that of the salamander’s. Wincing, Bruni cowered. His head buried under his hands. He was immediately entrapped within a makeshift cage of ice, and would find he no longer had the means to escape.
With Bruni now confined, Elsa took his enclosure between her arms. She clambered back down from the tree, and slowly, the flames around her began to dissipate. Try as he might, Bruni had no hope in reigniting. The icy floor of the enclosure kept him cold, and all the flames in the forest withered away.
Elsa sighed. “I did not want to do this, but you left me no choice.” Her eyes lowered cautiously to view him.
Bruni braced himself against the bars. He scrambled around the enclosure and continued to panic.
“What is going on with you?” Elsa frightfully cooed.
Bruni hissed in reply, and his little nails scratched between the bars.
Biting her lip, Elsa’s shoulders slumped.
“Come,” She whispered, and turned back for the village. “Let us see what of your damage can no longer be undone.”
It was some time after midnight when Anna stirred. Kristoff’s arms were tight around her waist. His gentle snores echoed in her ear, and a gentle breeze filtered in overhead from the open window.
Anna innerly groaned. She slipped from Kristoff’s arms, and replaced a pillow in his hold. He lay there, unknowing. Kristoff’s face buried deep into the down. His snores continued as he hugged the pillow to his chest, and Anna crept silently across the room.
Her feet were light on the hardwood as she slipped through the door. With her bare toes, she padded silently down the hall. The castle was as quiet as the outside world. All the staff slept sound through the night, as Anna wished she could be doing herself.
However, Anna had been plagued by dreams of sickness. They kept her stirring and moving restlessly against her silk sheets. Her subconscious told tales about death and violence, turning terror as she watched her loved ones die. There was Gerda, and then Kai. It was Kristoff next, who followed them both. In her grief, dreaming Anna had tried to save Elsa in time, but it was no use. The illness struck her sister in its final blow against Arendelle.
No matter how hard Anna fought, the dreams returned. Hopeful a walk would clear her thoughts, Anna set for the halls. She cut through the library, the study, and the lounge. Anna watched out the balcony, overlooking the fjords. She navigated each empty room in the castle, until her legs began to buckle beneath her weight.
Sleep had dazed her, yet another sensation brought Anna back to the present.
The strain of everything she’d been made to deal with, had Anna’s faint feeling circling back in full force. As with dinner, a dizzy spell took over her mind. It would not settle. It caused her feet to stumble as if she were walking on wet sand. Each step had her swaying, and the sickness only continued to grow.
When it got to be more than Anna could handle, she had reached the stairs leading to the second floor. Anna looked up at the steps. She eyed the sturdy banister, however she also understood the danger of daring forward. A fall while feeling like this; she might end up hurt. Instead, she came to sit against the floor. The cool tile soothed through her night dress, and had her further melting into its embrace.
Anna’s head fell lax against the banister. She closed her eyes, reeling in a deep breathe. The silence of the night, and the peacefulness of the castle, had Anna feeling as though she could fall asleep right then and there.
Time escaped her as she crooned against the cold floor. It was not until some far-off voice called to her, that Anna remembered where she was.
Shaken from the hazy spell, Anna sat up straight.
“Anna!” Kristoff hurried down the stairs. He slid in at her side, and his arms drew tight around her. “What are you doing down here?” He balked.
Color slowly returned to Anna’s cheeks. “I couldn’t sleep.” She explained.
“Anna, are you sick? Tell me now! You look pale, and I was so worried when I woke up without you there!” He was stumbling through his words. Sleep and worry clouded him.
Kristoff gathered his wife in his arms. He lifted Anna from the floor and pulled her against his chest.
“I’m alright.” She feigned a grin, however Kristoff saw right through her.
His eyes lowered. Kristoff’s hand splayed over her head. “You are warm. You are sweating and it’s cold in here!”
Kristoff started away from the stairs, and Anna began to flail. “Wait! Where are you taking me?” Her eyes went round.
“To the doctor.” Kristoff replied.
Anna scrambled from his arms. “No, no! Don’t you dare! I am anxious, and I’m tired, but I can promise you that I’m not sick. If you take me there, you’ll cause a panic! Look at me, Kristoff. I promise, I’m okay.”
He gave her a once over. His eyes scanned slow from head to foot. “Is your stomach alright?”
Anna nodded. “My stomach is fine.”
Kristoff’s face held strict until Anna’s reassuring eyes broke him down. He sighed and pulled Anna back into his arms.
“But you would tell me if you weren’t feeling okay, right? Please don’t wait until it’s too late for me to help you.”
She felt his lips move against her hair, and Anna smiled. “I promise, I’m okay.”
She pulled back from his hold. Her eyes searched for his. They met, and Anna circled her arms around Kristoff’s side.
Kristoff watched her smile. He felt the strength of her hug against his waist.
“Okay…” He finally breathed.
“Okay,” She echoed. “Now, let’s go back to bed. Everything will be better in the morning, you'll see.”
Anna tugged his hand to her hip and allowed Kristoff to take the lead. He stalled only long enough to check her over once more. Once satisfied with her appearance, Kristoff held onto her as they walked back up the stairs.
However, It wasn’t until the two were slumbered together under the sheets, and when Anna's dizzy spell returned; that she realized she had lied to her husband.
Her only wish now was for whatever ailment plagued her, to pass before they awoke.
Finally, carried by fatigue and the relentless haze, Anna fearfully returned to sleep.
Chapter 6: Part Three - Of the Flame
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: Of the Flame
“How is he doing?”
Elsa stood in the entryway, leaning against the doorframe. Warmth from the center fire encouraged her further inside the hut, but she stood her ground.
Her lips were pinched to the side. Deep lines creased into the skin of her forehead, and her eyes weighed heavy. The color around her lids had darkened significantly from sleep loss. Elsa was tired; an understatement. She was afraid and she was anxious.
Before her, a collection of cots had been lined into two rows. The elders worked alongside one another, tending to the few villagers who had been injured during the fire. Of them, was Ryder. He slept deeply under whatever spell Yelena’s concoction had placed him under. She was redressing his foot and had not looked up at Elsa.
“He is doing better this morning.” Yelena’s words were dry. “Much of his coloring has returned. I do not see any reason he should not make a full recovery.”
Elsa released a small sigh. “That is so good to hear.”
Yelena would never say otherwise, but Elsa could not help believing that the elders blamed her for the fire. Had she been in the forest as she was meant to be, the destruction would not have been as bad. Ryder and the few others who suffered, they would have been left unscathed. Elsa also wondered if she might have even been able to tame Bruni; instead of being forced to cage him away.
Feeling guilty, and with no further words spoken by Yelena, Elsa left the hut. The cool breath of morning air hit her with a rush of emotions. Elsa willed herself to see the damage that had been done the night before. While the smoke had cleared, and the flames faded away; Elsa was burdened by a sense of failure still burning deep inside her chest.
Despite her years of progress, some hurts would always remain. Magic held no merit when it came to self confidence, and because of that; Elsa knew her past would always come back to dictate her future.
Her eyes had barely opened. Limbs beneath the covers had only just begun to stretch, yet Kristoff was already there and looking down at her. Before Anna’s vision had cleared from sleep, he was in her face; Kristoff's expression full of concern.
“Are you feeling better?” He asked quietly.
Anna grumbled and pushed a hand against his chest. She rose to sit when he backed away, his eyes never leaving hers.
“I don’t know yet.” Anna yawned. “How long have you been watching me sleep?”
Fatigue laced Kristoff’s complexion. The whites of his eyes had grown dry and red. Lips arched downward, and his arm held around her waist just a little too tight.
“Only for a little while.” His eyes turned from hers as he spoke.
She saw through his lie immediately. “Kristoff…” Anna sighed, and Kristoff quickly shook his head.
“No, don’t.” He whispered. “Don’t do that. You don’t have to protect me from anything, remember? I am here for you always, come what may. Now, let me see about that fever.”
The back of his hand pressed against her forehead. Anna watched as Kristoff’s brow furrowed in deep thought.
“Your verdict, doctor?” She teased as she felt Kristoff’s touch slowly slipping away.
“No fever, but I would be lying if I told you, you look okay.”
Anna whacked him across the chest. “I just woke up! You should see how you look!”
“Yeah, but I am tired-”
“-and so am I.” Anna defended before pulling Kristoff close. “We are both stressed, and stress does crazy things to people; especially when there is too much of it...”
He sighed, bringing his head to lean against Anna’s chest. Her arms tightened around him and her cheek pressed to his hair. Beneath Kristoff’s ear, he listened to the beating of Anna’s heart. He felt how strong it worked against her ribs, and he tucked himself further into her hold.
“I worry about you.”
Anna’s fingers came to scratch against his back. “I know, and I worry about you, too. But look-”
Kristoff’s head rotated just enough to see Anna pointing to her face.
“I am feeling much better today.”
A smile grew slowly across his cheeks before turning coy. “Really?” His brow arched.
Kristoff chuckled softly. “Fine, you are feeling better, but I am still suggesting you take an easy day.”
Anna hummed. “So, does that mean you’ll bring me breakfast in bed, then?”
Kristoff groaned, and his head returned to Anna’s chest. “I will bring you whatever you like, my love.”
“Woah! You’re in a hurry!”
Honeymaren leapt quickly out of Elsa’s way. She was a woman on a mission with her shoulders back, and a face like stone. Elsa’s fists were tight. Her brows lowered, and she marched off toward the North Trails; showing no indication that she recognized anyone else was with her in the forest.
Having seen her Elsa’s face as she left the medical tent, Honeymaren took it upon herself to go and check on her. Elsa’s expression had gone from saddened to angry; all in less time than it takes to blink. Elsa was working through something internal. Something waged war on her mind, and whatever demons had found themselves there; they left Elsa walking blind.
She had nearly knocked Honeymaren to her rear, and Elsa continued to walk away as if Honeymaren hadn’t existed. It was rare for Elsa not to offer even the smallest wave or head nod. She had always been quite personable in that way.
“Hey!” Honeymaren tried again.
She may have been overstepping some boundaries here. Honeymaren certainly felt she was, however, she could not let this one go. Elsa’s face bore more weight than Ryder’s injury could have caused on its own. Her expression spoke of guilt, of regrets, and of anguish. It was as if Ryder was the tipping point on a large scale of troubles, and per-usual; Elsa was ready to face them on her own.
“Elsa!” Honeymaren breathed as she reached her side. She caught Elsa by the elbow and spun her around.
Elsa looked down at the hand against her arm. A frown worked its way onto her lips, and her eyes dropped low with anger.
“I am on my way to Ahtohallan.” She explained almost mechanically.
As Elsa raised her eyes, Honeymaren released her. She was surprised by the reaction her touch had caused. Deep in Elsa’s blue eyes, she saw a fury that nearly scared her. It was Elsa looking back at her, but Honeymaren could barely recognize her face.
“Are you alright?” Honeymaren stepped back. Her head cocked to the side.
“I am fine.” Elsa rushed. “Do you need me for something or-”
Honeymaren quickly shook her head. “No, I-” Her words fell briefly. “I was worried about you, is all.”
“Worried about me?” Elsa’s volume rose. “There is no need for that. I am fine, as I said.”
Honeymaren’s toes turned in the dirt. “Elsa, you almost knocked me over back there. It was like you didn't even see me.”
Pulling in air through her nose, Elsa willed herself to relax. “I apologize for that. My thoughts were elsewhere, but your worries are misplaced. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Elsa turned away sharply.
Honeymaren’s gaze flickered to the men and women at work in the village behind them. They were busied by the rebuild on a few of their homes, and working to clear the scattered debris. Distracted or not, there was no privacy here for a conversation; and Elsa was clearly in desperate need of one.
Honeymaren decidedly hurried after Elsa, and stopped her once more. “Perhaps we could talk somewhere else for a moment?” Her brow arched suggestively.
“Can this wait?” Elsa asked. She dragged a hand impatiently through her hair. “I have too much on my mind at the moment, and too many things that need to be taken care of.”
A small feigned grin worked across Honeymaren’s cheeks. “Sure.” She nodded. “Of course. I probably should have stayed out of it anyway...”
Her shoulders shrugged into her ears as Honeymaren headed back up the hill.
Elsa watched her go. Honeymaren’s gaze had dropped low, and her expression strained. Elsa had hurt Honeymaren with her dismissiveness. She hadn’t meant to, but still, guilt surged within her chest; and Elsa was filled with even more guilt than she had felt before.
Here she was, dwelling over all the ways in which she had not changed since childhood. Elsa was angry at herself for what happened in the village. She was upset by the self-loathing that resurfaced every time she felt scared. And here she was, still continuing to push away the people who cared for her the most. Yet, despite their love, and despite Elsa’s newfound trust; she was still finding ways to hurt them. She still convinced herself of all reasons that she should hold them further at bay.
Elsa finally sighed. Her hands returned to fists. She reeled in a deep breath, and hurried into a run.
“Honeymaren, wait.” Elsa caught her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I was being rude. I-”
Elsa watched Honeymaren turn and her appearance had Elsa losing her words. Something strange settled over Honeymaren’s face. She didn’t appear angry or sad. She looked deflated and completely drained. There was a rare look of disappointment there as well; a disappointment that Elsa took rapidly to heart.
“I just wanted to say, I’m sorry.” She finished.
Honeymaren’s lips flattened. Her eyes turned sympathetic. “It’s okay, Elsa. I understand.”
Elsa offered her a small grin. She pulled her hand away, and her head tilt with encouragement. “May I have a rain check on that talk, please?”
She shrugged. “Sure, if that is what you would like.”
Honeymaren nodded slowly as her gaze dropped to her feet.
Despite Elsa’s attempt to make things better, Honeymaren’s light had not returned. Her smile was far too weak to be genuine, and her eyes filled with an emptiness that Elsa, herself, could not understand.
“Thank you for thinking of me, though.” Elsa tried again.
Honeymaren did not respond. Instead, her hands pulled in uncomfortably at her waist, and she began fidgeting with her fingers.
“Um, I guess I should be going then…” Elsa swayed on her feet.
“Right,” Honeymaren looked up. “I have work I need to get back to in the village.”
She pulled from Elsa’s stare before she said another word. A heavy weight sat against her chest, and had Honeymaren’s return to the village proving very difficult. She was too encumbered by rejection to assist in the repairs. Honeymaren’s heart hurt, and that pain had her mind traveling elsewhere.
Honeymaren did not know why it was so important to her that Elsa trust her with her thoughts. She wanted to help, but Elsa was being too stubborn. Elsa held the lock so tight on all her troubles, and she refused to let anyone in. Honeymaren wanted to help Elsa work through those problems. She only wished to be her friend. She wanted to show Elsa that families came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and prove to Elsa that there were people here who cared about her deeply. ..
Elsa would see that for herself, if only she remembered to let her new family in.
“This was a fantastic idea!” Anna cheered through her full mouth.
Kristoff laughed at his wife’s antics. “You think anything that involves food is a fantastic idea.”
“And can you blame me?”
Anna dropped back into the pillows. Her feet stretched out front, and her hand went to the tray beside her. Kristoff had layered their spread with danish and mixed cheeses; all of Anna’s favorite foods. Together, they were enjoying some lazy snacking as their morning turned to early afternoon.
“The only one who will blame you is Gerda, if you get any crumbs in this bed.” Kristoff pointed a danish at Anna’s chest, shaking crumbs onto the sheets. “Better yet, don’t tell Gerda anything.” He quickly brushed them away. “I brought the food up here and if she finds out, Gerda is going to have my head for it!”
Anna giggled and rolled her eyes. “Gerda already knows.”
“What?” Kristoff balked.
“She already knows!” Anna sang again. “Nothing ever gets passed Gerda. She is probably outside the door right now, waiting for us to leave so she can give us both a good scolding.”
Kristoff watched his wife take a large bite of her danish. Anna teased him mercifully with her wandering gaze.
“You knew this, and yet you still asked me to sneak up this tray?” Kristoff scoffed
Anna turned to him cheekily. “Maybe…” She sang.
“Oh, I see how it is now. You want me to be the one that gets in trouble for your bad decisions!"
Anna rolled onto her side and casually shrugged. “It’s about time someone around here other than me started getting into trouble...”
“Dear,” Kristoff hummed as he mocked her. “No one around here will ever get into as much trouble as you have."
Anna faked a pout.
“No, no. None of that please.” Kristoff’s arms folded over his chest. He was determined not to fall for her grumbling this time.
Anna held her glare as she slid from the bed, but Kristoff swiftly caught her hand and held her still.
“Hey!” He teased. “Where do you think you are going?”
He spun her around by the arm and forced their eyes to meet. In an instant, Anna’s anger had faded, and she disrupted into giggles.
“You are so mean to me!” Kristoff released her hand with a pout. “I’m going to tell the kingdom how rude their queen is to her husband!”
Throwing himself back into the pillows, Kristoff covered his face. Anna’s laughter faded away, and her silence took over. Thinking she was ready to give into his sulking, Kristoff pulled back to glare at his wife.
Quickly though, their humor stopped. Kristoff leapt up onto his knees and hurriedly crawled to Anna’s side.
She was upright, but swaying. Her hands gripped the bedsheets, and her face had grown incredibly pale. Anna's eyes held shut. Her mouth wavered in distress. Kristoff caught Anna arms with his hands and slowly pulled her into his lap.
“Hey…” He soothed a hand over her back. “I’m right here. What’s wrong?”
Anna allowed herself to fall into him; heavy and limp.
“I’m just dizzy.” She whispered. “I must have stood up too fast.”
She bat at the air with an open hand, but Kristoff caught it, holding it firmly in his own.
Anna’s head leisurely tucked against his chest. She sighed into her husband's touch, and wrapped her arms around him.
“Just relax for a minute, okay.” Kristoff’s lips pressed to Anna’s head.
“I’m okay. Really, I promise...”
But Anna was lying to them both now, and she knew it. She had known it when the darkness took over her vision, and she had known it when the spins set back in.
Anna was sick; and she was sick with an illness that not even their doctor knew yet how to fight.
It was well after dusk when Elsa returned to the village.
Hut lanterns had long since been dimed. The broth pot by the fire had cooled, and the people retired to their beds.
Elsa planned to return to her hut as well. She was tired. Her emotions were caught in a frenzy, and staying up would only mean having more time to dwell. However, a light in the recovery hut had Elsa changing her direction. She crept across the clearing and knocked against the hut's frame.
“Come in.” Someone directed.
Elsa’s head peered skeptically through the crack in the door. Inside, Ryder had sat up in bed, a small calf nuzzling against his side. Ryder smiled when he saw it was Elsa who entered, and he motioned for her to join him in the light.
Nodding graciously, Elsa left the door wide as she approached. Her feet were slow, and her eyes hesitant.
“Everyone left you.” Elsa giggled, and turned to view the empty cots.
“Yeah,” Ryder scoffed. “Yelena said I can try walking again tomorrow. But for now, I am stuck in here on my own.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” Elsa frowned. She sat timidly in the chair at Ryder’s bedside. “May I see your injury?”
“Sure.” Ryder shrugged. He leaned down and rolled his pant leg up to his knee. “It feels worse that it looks.”
Elsa forced herself to stifle a laugh. “Funny, usually people say it’s the other way around.”
Her eyes carried down to the bits of burned skin around Ryder’s toes. The rest of the wound remained well-hidden under Yelena’s dressing. To Elsa, it didn’t look great, but it also didn’t appear to be anything Ryder wouldn’t heal from. He had come out of this fairly lucky, afterall.
“May I?” She asked. Her hands rose to hover over the clothe.
Ryder nodded. Curiosity spiked behind his eyes.
Ryder watched in awe as Elsa layered the dressing in a thin coat of frost. It soaked through to the wound, and his burn began to numb.
“There,” Elsa smiled. “Hopefully that helps you rest a bit more comfortably now. I didn’t get a chance to do this when I came to see you earlier. I’m afraid you were still sleeping.”
Ryder’s eyes enlarged. His expression baffled. “You came to check on me?” He grinned.
“Of course,” She shrugged. “I wanted to apologize to you personally, for allowing you to get hurt.”
Elsa turned somber, and Ryder frowned. “I don’t understand. Why would you apologize to me? You didn’t cause the fire.”
“No,” Elsa’s attention diverted. She sighed and pulled her hands into her lap. “I didn’t start the fire, but if I’d have been here sooner, it may not have gotten as bad as it did. And I am only sorry you got hurt because of that.”
“Hey!” Ryder announced, pulling Elsa’s eyes back to him. “Look at me. I’m okay! Everyone is okay because we had you to stop the fire. No one here expects you to spend every second of your life waiting around for something to happen. And no one blames you because something did. You are being too hard on yourself, Elsa.”
Her eyes softened. “You think so?”
“Yup.” Ryder nodded. “I know so.”
With a blush, Elsa turned to admire her palms. She had never been one to handle praise well. Infact, praise made her entirely uncomfortable. Hearing it from Ryder though, his words meant the world to her, and Elsa felt an ounce of guilt leave her chest in response.
“Anyway…” Ryder sang, stopping Elsa’s thoughts from spiralling. “What did happen with Bruni, by the way?”
Elsa’s shoulders tightened as she dragged a hand through her hair. “I took him to Ahtohallan where he would be safe, and where we would be safe from him.”
“That must have been hard for you.” Ryder frowned. “I know the spirits are kind of like your friends in a way. It can’t be easy to watch them turn on you like that.”
Elsa’s expression matched Ryder’s. “Thank you for that, but I promise I will figure it out soon.”
“I know you will. Still, everyone needs a little encouragement now and again.” His hand stroked through the calf’s soft fur. “And speaking of figuring things out; did you find any answers in Ahtohallan?”
Dejectedly, Elsa shook her head. “I’m afraid not.”
Her hand joined besides Ryder’s as she scratched her finger against the calf’s head.
“I haven’t had to exercise my full powers as the fifth spirit before now. When I came into them, the answers traveled to me on their own. It is not working quite the same way this time around. There is something blocking me from figuring out the truth. I can’t find answers for Arendelle, and I can find them for Northuldra either. I’m frustrated, but I am doing everything I can to make things right.”
Ryder hummed. His finger touched to his chin. “That is really weird. Do you think maybe everything is connected to the spirits leaving the forest, like Arendelle and their crazy illness? Maybe it's a spiritual balance thing after all.”
“I think it would be foolish not to believe that they are all related. There are too many coincidences taking place right now. I can’t see either ends of the bridge from Ahtohallan, and it’s all feeling rather unsettling.”
Her fingers moved through the calf’s fur when suddenly Elsa was stopped. Ryder’s hand settled on hers. Warmth spread through Elsa’s skin. She shivered and looked up to see Ryder smiling back at her.
“You’ve got what it takes to solve this one, Elsa. I have faith in you, and anything you can’t figure out on your own, well; you’ve got me and the others here to help you.”
Grinning, Elsa placed her other hand on top of their combined ones. “Thank you, Ryder. That is exactly what I needed to hear tonight.”
Ryder blushed but his stare fixed on hers. “Anytime.”
The two returned to their small-talk, laughing over the calf who turned to his back and demanded a belly rub.
Both remained distracted by their fun, and neither noticed the woman watching them from the doorway.
Beyond hut, Honeymaren noticed how quickly their two hands separated. She saw Ryder’s vibrant blush. She saw how wide his mouth turned while he laughed at what Elsa said. Honeymaren could not hear what was being spoken over the roaring fire, nonetheless, she could see it.
Honeymaren noticed the way their eyes met in playful glances. She saw Elsa smiling with an ease that Honeymaren herself had never been able to provide for her. More than anything, their interaction hurt her heart. It forced Honeymaren to take a painful step back, and bring herself to hide amongst the shadows.
“Perhaps I was wrong.” She whispered sadly. “Maybe you will want to wed a Northuldra like him afterall.”
Where Magic Flows
Part One: In the Air
“I know how ridiculous this must seem to you, but look, I am fine.”
Seated center to the bed, Anna watched as Kristoff paced the width of their bedroom. He refused her his eyes. His expression was determined, brows low and forehead wrinkled. He was a man on a mission, but also fearful to witness.
“My color is back. My head feels fine, and look,” Anna rose to stand. “See, I am not dizzy!”
“Anna, sit down, please.” Kristoff scolded, and Anna did as she was told.
Everything she had said was true, however, Kristoff no longer had the patience for it.
“The doctor is on his way. There are no ifs, ands, nor buts about it! Mattias has already sent for him, so you might as well sit back, relax, and wait with me.”
His tone was sharp, but Anna didn’t take it to heart. Her husband was frightened, and frightened in a way she’d never seen on him before. Kristoff appeared puzzled in his pacing. He was searching for answers regarding things he knew very little about. Because, if Anna was sick, there were no answers on how to make her better, and knowing this; Anna decidedly let him fret.
“I know you are worried, but look at the bright side- whatever is bothering me, it comes and goes. This is not the same as what we have seen in the children! My stomach is fine, a little queasy at times, but I am not getting sick, and that’s a good start!”
“You were feeling queasy?” Kristoff’s angered face suddenly appeared at her side.
“You missed all the positive things I’d said, and jumped right onto that one…” Anna grumbled with a slight roll of her eyes.
Ignoring her frustrations, Kristoff climbed onto the bed. He pulled Anna’s arms away from her chest, and held her hands in his.
“I’m sorry. I know I am driving you crazy.” Her brows lifted knowingly, but Kristoff went on. “-and maybe exaggerating things a bit, but Anna, please, for my own peace of mind, as well as for your own, just be honest with the doctor. Let us help you figure this out...”
She stared at Kristoff for a long moment. Anna’s eyes searched his face until finally, she released a sigh.
“Okay,” she promised, and she meant it.
The heat of the summer sun was at new high when Elsa left her hut midmorning. Her conversation with Ryder had brightened her spirits, and Elsa felt refreshed and ready to continue her search.
Apologizing to Honeymaren took precedence, though. Their last conversation had left her feeling uneasy. Seeing that far-off look in her brown eyes, and the almost impersonal smile that Honeymaren put on for her; Elsa couldn’t understand it. Yet, regardless of understanding, the interaction weighed heavy on her heart. Elsa thought it better to face Honeymaren head-on, so then she might enjoy her newfound motivation.
Elsa located Honeymaren tending to the crops to the east of the village. Their supply had, luckily, fared well during Bruni’s rebellion. They lost a section of wheat plants, and a handful of corn, but the rest remained unscathed.
Honeymaren was busy working alongside the other women when Elsa approached. Elsa always thought it humorous when Honeymaren was assigned to harvest duty. Her fearless, strong-minded friend never looked as if she belonged in the farmlands. And today was no different. Honeymaren’s efforts were jaded. Her thoughts were elsewhere, and she aggressively tended to the cabbage in front of her.
If she sensed Elsa behind her, Honeymaren did not look up. She was on her knees, welling out dirt, when Elsa lowered at her side.
“Hi,” She greeted. A small smile tugged at Elsa’s lips.
“Hello,” Honeymaren echoed. Her attention held to the task at hand.
“May I borrow you for a moment?”
Eyes briefly closing, Honeymaren fought a sigh. When they reopened, she wiped her hands along the tops of her pants, and then turned to find Elsa. Immediately, Honeymaren wished she hadn’t. Elsa lingered a few centimeters too close to her face. Her bottom lip sank beneath her teeth, and seeing that drove Honeymaren’s eyes wide.
She swiftly pulled back from her, moving quickly toward the next plant. “I’m expected to finish the harvest before midday...” Honeymaren whispered.
“This will only take a second.”
Defeated, Honeymaren’s gaze swept through the crowd of women around her. They were all preoccupied in their own work. No one would notice if she disappeared for a short while, however, the idea of being alone with Elsa had Honeymaren perturbed. She didn’t have her emotions in check. She was angry, and knew she was lacking the right to be.
“Fine,” Honeymaren huffed and rose to her feet. “-but only for a second.”
Unwilling to waste that second, Elsa led Honeymaren to the recesses of the clearing. It bordered the forest, but was far enough away for anyone to hear what she had to say.
When they came to a stop, Elsa’s hands fought to her waist. She had her eyes on them, watching as her fingers twisted together.
“Well?” Honeymaren asked. Her hands splayed over her hips.
Elsa’s eyes rose to her tentatively, surprised by the offputting nature of Honeymaren’s tone. “I wanted to apologize to you again- for being rude to you yesterday. You didn’t deserve it, and I know you were only looking to help me.”
“Is that all?” Her response was sharp. Honeymaren’s head tilt to the side.
Elsa blinked. “Well, yes. I mean, I’m not one for excuses, but I have had a lot on my mind between the spirits leaving and Arendelle, and I should not have taken my frustrations out on you.”
Silence reigned between them. Honeymaren’s stare was strict and unwavering. Elsa could almost sense the way the woman’s teeth grit behind her lips.
“So, you’ve said.” she finally replied. “-and as I have said, it is fine. Now, are we done here?”
Honeymaren’s back was on Elsa before she could respond. Nevertheless, Elsa was not so quickly defeated. She reached out, snatching Honeymaren’s hand, and held her still. Elsa then came to face her. She circled around Honeymaren’s waist and met her eyes with a small frown.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “I am sensing, quite loudly, that you may still be angry with me...”
Elsa released Honeymaren’s hand. Her brow arched and her lips pulled coyly to the side. Unappreciative of Elsa’s teasing, Honeymaren crossed her arms.
“I am not angry.” she feigned. “I am tired and there is a lot of work to be done around here.”
Once again, she did not wait for Elsa's reply. With her arms crossed and movements quick, Honeymaren set back for the field.
Elsa watched her stomping away. “You are angry with me!” she announced, feeling almost as if she had solved a new riddle. “Please, tell me, what did I do to upset you?”
Honeymaren shook her head. She could hear Elsa’s feet hurrying after her, and she refused to slow.
“I’m not upset!” she shouted, but the tone gave her away.
Flustered, Honeymaren came to a stop. Her eyes flickered between women watching her from the other side of the field.
“Look, if you are needing someone to talk to right now, perhaps Ryder would be a better fit for you?”
“Ryder?” Elsa came to a halt, a mere foot from where Honeymaren stood. Her shoulders pulled up in confusion, and she shook her head. “I don’t understand... I am trying to talk to you!”
“But I don’t want to talk!” Honeymaren defended, and she spun back to Elsa with a fierce growl. “I don’t want to talk to you, or anyone else for that matter! Besides, you don’t have to lie to me, or spare my feelings in any way. I know you know now, Elsa!”
The pained expression Honeymaren bore was perplexing. Elsa’s frown deepened in response. “What do I know? I’m afraid I don’t understand what’s going on here!”
Honeymaren rolled her eyes. Acid returned to her tongue. “Ryder has feelings for you! That’s why you’ve come here, correct? Not to apologize, or to ask me how my morning is going, but to tell me what happened between you and my brother last night!”
“Last night…” Elsa’s confusion only thickened until her eyes suddenly struck wide. “Oh! That? But wait- Ryder has feelings for me?”
The air punched from Elsa’s lungs.
“Yes!” Honeymaren nearly bellowed. “-and please, drop this act... I know you have feelings for him, too!”
“I hope you don’t mind me asking your husband to leave?”
Doctor Laugen smirked as his thumb dug toward the door.
“Oh, no…” Anna blushed. She stood from the bed and came to face him. “Kristoff means well, he does, but sometimes… he can get a bit carried away…”
“He cares about you.” Doctor Laugen shrugged. “There is nothing wrong with that.”
Nodding, Anna’s eyes drifted toward the floor. She pulled idly at her fingers, and swayed uneasily on the balls of her feet.
“So, what brings me here today, your majesty?” Anna’s attention was directed back to the man’s face. “Lieutenant Mattias has stated that this meeting bears absolute confidentiality, which I will admit, had me feeling a tad anxious. However, looking at you, you appear alright! Your complexions fine. I typically happen upon a much different scenario when I am directed to a patient’s bed chamber...”
“Right…” Anna’s cheeks further darkened. “As I said, Kristoff can take things to the extreme faster than I realize it is happening.”
“Tell me, then.” Doctor Laugen came to sit on the trunk at the foot of the bed. He patted the space beside him, motioning for Anna to join. “Why is your husband going to extremes?”
Instead of sitting, Anna came to lean against one of the posts. Her attention diverted to her hands. “Well, you see, Doctor… Kristoff is nervous, and I suppose it would be truthful to say that I am feeling nervous, too; but we’re afraid I may have contracted this illness that's spreading through Arendelle…”
Her eyes rose towards his hesitantly.
“-and what has you believing this?” Doctor Laugen’s head turned. His hand waved over Anna’s height. “You appear healthy. Your face is bright with good color, as are your eyes. You know as well as I do that these are not the same symptoms we have seen from the children down in the clinic.”
“I know, I know…” Anna assured him. “-but, there is something not quite right here…”
“Go on,” he encouraged her, flashing Anna a small grin.
Needing space, Anna wandered away from where Doctor Laugen sat. She began to pace the floor at the side of her bed.
“You see, I have these dizzy spells, and then there’s the headaches, not to mention the nausea and just downright awful feeling that takes over sometimes, especially in my chest, well breasts- and the spells never seem to last long! No, never more than an hour or two at most, but they, um, do appear to get worse each day. So, I might not be sick with the bad sick, no, but I do think there’s something wrong with me…”
“I see,” Doctor Laugen hummed. “-and for how long have you been experiencing these symptoms?”
Anna shrugged as she finally came to a halt in front of him. “I am not certain, maybe a week, maybe two? I have been trying to ignore it…”
Doctor Laugen nodded. “Hmm, well, not exactly the timeline we have been facing down in the clinic.” He briefly touched his chin. “-and there has been no stomach pain nor vomiting?”
“No, not yet, anyway,” Anna shook her head. “- and that has to be a good thing, right? You wouldn’t have me still standing here if you thought I contracted that illness...”
The doctor chuckled. “No, your majesty, I do not believe you have the illness. I do, however, believe that you may be in need of a different type of specialist.”
Anna’s eyes widened. Her head tilt to the side as it shook. “What do you mean? What kind of specialist?”
Doctor Laugen stood with his hands held tight in his pockets. “Your majesty, when was your last menstrual cycle?”
“My last- what?” Anna’s brows touched to her hairline. Her heart suddenly sped up beneath her ribs. “Oh. Oh holy-”
Anna’s words fell away. She sunk against the bed. Very tentatively, she met the doctor's gaze and he smiled at her.
Elsa wanted to laugh. She wanted to cry, but more than anything, she wanted to run away.
Talking about Ryder, and in front of his sister- talking about attraction regarding Ryder in any capacity was enough to make her flee. But this…
“Honeymaren, I don’t know what you think you know, but I most certainly do not have feelings for your brother!” Elsa’s voice was low and hoarse. Her cheeks tinged pink as her eyes rolled in their sockets.
She had never felt so emotionally vulnerable before, and she wasn’t quite sure what had brought it on. Her entire life was spent experiencing fear. However, this was different than that. This was uncomfortable; unchartered territory even. To be accused of having feelings for someone else- it was so seemingly normal that Elsa could not believe she was the target.
“Why can’t you just admit it? I was there, and I saw you both!”
Honeymaren was now fully facing Elsa, wearing a wicked glare. It was intimidating, like nothing Elsa had seen from the woman before. Honeymaren was frightening when angry, and Elsa knew she should be afraid. But whether it was the humor or the uncertainty of the situation, Elsa found herself more entertained than anything else. Regardless, she knew this was no longer the time nor the place. Worried that Honeymaren may cause a scene, Elsa started to back away.
“Look, Honeymaren, this is not what I came here for. We can deal with your accusations later!” Her hands rose at her sides and she spun around.
Honeymaren charged after her. “Avoidance is as good as a passive yes, so what I am saying must be true!” she jested.
“No,” Elsa nearly snorted. “You could not be further from the truth...”
Honeymaren’s laughter rang in from over her shoulder, but Elsa kept walking. Down through the lower field, and over the embankment, Elsa drove them towards the woods.
“You wanted to talk, and now suddenly you are no longer interested?” Honeymaren huffed, blowing the fallen hairs from her face. “Why don’t you just tell me what the two of you talked about, then? Or is it something so deeply personal that I’m not at liberty to know?”
Elsa came to a dramatic halt. She spun on her heels with her finger raised. “What is going on here? What am I missing?” Her face flashed between emotions. “You know, I would tell you what we talked about if I thought that was really what you wanted to hear, but you and I both know that you are fishing for something else; something that did not actually happen, and I don’t know why you are doing it!”
Crossing her arms, Honeymaren stepped in closer. “Funny, how am I the one fishing, when you’re the one parading around as bait?”
Jaw wavering, eyes erratically wide; Elsa’s thoughts fluttered from conscious. Her expression turned bored and she shook her head.
“I am not even going to touch that one.” Her voice came at a deadpan before walking away once more.
Elsa had made it no more than two feet before anger drove back through her chest. Whatever was happening here, it was ridiculous. And the worst part was, Elsa didn’t understand it at all. She had come to Honeymaren to apologize, and was now being forced to listen to her outrageous accusations. None of it made any sense.
She tried to dig through the years of novels she read in a matter of seconds. Why did events like these happen in books? Unfortunately, nothing came to mind, and instead her anger continued to grow.
Quite suddenly, she was spiralling back toward Honeymaren. Her frustrations had reached their hilt, and they released in a burst of unwarranted laughter.
“Do you want to know what your brother said to me last night?” Elsa didn’t wait for Honeymaren to respond. “I went to Ryder to apologize for the burn, and he told me that it wasn’t my fault. He did not tell me he had feelings for me- and thank you for that by the way; that should certainly make things comfortable around here for a while- but I went to Ryder as a friend, and he treated me like a friend. Now, please, can we stop with these dramatics?”
Honeymaren could only stare, and Elsa stared right on back. Behind brown eyes, the anger was fading, but something else remained. What she could read there, it had Elsa feeling confused. Her brows tucked together and she swung her head to the side.
“Wait,” Elsa stopped. Her hand fluttered between them. “Why do you even care?”
“What?” The question was forced from Honeymaren’s lungs. She balked at Elsa behind wide eyes.
“Why do you care how Ryder feels about me? And what does it matter to you how I respond?” She shook her head, blonde hair curtaining her face. “It makes no sense...”
Honeymaren rolled her eyes. Tight fists drew in at her side. “I don’t care! You’ve got this all wrong-”
“Do I?” Elsa’s brow arched. “Is this jealousy?” A small smirk lifted to her lips and a light lit behind her eyes. “It is, isn’t it? Because, if I didn’t know any better, all of this anger and deflection; it’s stemming from some place else… I think you are jealous, Honeymaren!”
“H-hey now.. Will you wait just a second here!” Honeymaren stammered through words.
“No, you are! Aren’t you? I can’t believe it!” Elsa cheered.
It felt as if she’d put the puzzle back together. It was rewarding! Honeymaren was jealous!
“But, wait… jealous of what?” Elsa’s grin faded quick. “I don’t understand, of your brother? No, that doesn’t make sense…”
Across from her, Elsa watched Honeymaren grow incredibly small. Her arms wrapped protectively around her waist. Her shoulders rolled up into her neck. Elsa had never seen Honeymaren appearing so caught off guard. Her cheeks were pink, and she almost looked… embarrassed...
“Wait…” Elsa hummed again. Her head turned slowly to each side. “-before, when you brought up Ryder… you said, that he was a better fit for me than…”
Elsa’s voice began to trail off. Honeymaren was no longer looking at her. She had taken two shakey steps back. Her cheeks were buried into the collar of her tunic, and her skin had gone from pink to flushed.
“Oh…” Alarm suddenly filled Elsa’s brain. Her skin grew warm, and her chest… very heavy.
“...a better fit for me than...you?”
It took a full minute for Honeymaren’s eyes to meet Elsa’s wide ones.
The way she bit her lip, and the fog of guilt laced over her expression; what Elsa had guessed was true.
Ryder was not the only Nattura who had feelings for her.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or in this case - hell hath no fury like a woman who is jealous of her dorky, reindeer-loving brother making moves on her fifth spirit...
I am officially back from Europe (and officially back on the mend). I've got a lot of great content coming your way, so stay tuned for more.
Chapter 8: Part Two - In the Air
Where Magic Flows
Part Two: In the Air
Elsa couldn’t look at her. She couldn’t think. Blood rushed to her ears and swarmed her brain. Her palms began to sweat. Elsa’s fingers clenched, and a surprising shiver drew up her spine.
She couldn’t look at her, but she wanted to. Elsa wanted to see the spark of humour in Honeymaren’s eyes, telling her this was all for a laugh. Honeymaren wasn’t serious. She couldn’t be.
There is nothing worth admiring me for… Elsa decided.
“I, I’m flattered, Honeymaren, really, but-”
“You have feelings for someone else; for Ryder... It’s okay. You don’t have to explain. I knew what I saw was true.”
With wide eyes and raised hands, Elsa continued. “No, no, you misunderstand. This has nothing to do with Ryder. He is a friend to me and nothing more, but I am feeling caught off guard here.”
Honeymaren sighed. Her arms wrapped protectively around themselves. “This wasn’t supposed to happen this way, or at all, honest. I’m sorry it did… I’m sorry I let my emotions mess things up.”
“I think, given some time, you will find that there is really nothing all that special about me...”
“What?” Honeymaren’s eyes finally lifted. She tried to catch Elsa’s, but she kept them strategically held away from hers.
“You and your brother- you think too highly of me, and I am flattered! I am, but soon you will see, I am not worthy of the infatuation you think I am…”
Her confusion thickened. “I don’t understand.” Honeymaren took a long step backwards.
Elsa came to sit with her back held into the trunk of a tree. Her hands caught against her knees, and she hugged herself tight.
“I am the fifth spirit now... I imagine that may sound impressive to you, and to your people even; or perhaps in your culture that makes me something to be admired. But I’m not the Queen of Arendelle anymore, and I don't know why I was chose to be the fifth spirit. Deep down, I’m still just Elsa. Soon you will find I’m really quite ordinary, and your interest in me should fade away. Soon, you won’t have to worry about this anymore.”
Sitting there, Elsa appeared sad. Honeymaren could see Elsa believed what she had said. However, there was little truth in it, and that notion spiked a burst of anger though Honeymaren’s chest. She was insulted. Elsa’s words were harsh, and they drove Honeymaren to stand, arms crossed, in front of her.
“You believe Ryder and I developed feelings for you because you are the fifth spirit?”
Elsa quickly looked up. Honeymaren’s brows were pinched, and her lips pursed tight together. The temperature around them seemed to rapidly decline. Elsa had to wonder if it was her, or if Gale had sensed her distress.
“Yes…” She started slowly. “But I can understand why-”
“-no, Elsa. I don’t think you do.” Honeymaren cut her off. “I don’t believe you understand anything at all! Do you not see how vain, how close-minded that makes me sound?”
Blinking, Elsa reeled back into the tree. “You’re angry with me?”
Honeymaren bitterly laughed. “Yes. Yes I am angry! I am embarrassed and I am uncomfortable, but to top it all off, I am angry because you have degraded me so thoroughly. You’ve made me out to be some shallow, soft-minded Northuldra woman, and that is the furthest thing from the truth! You should know better!”
“What?” Elsa gaped and returned to her feet. “I never said that!”
“Not in those words, you didn’t.” Honeymaren’s teeth grit behind her lips. The wind pulled at her braid. She shivered and pulled in a deep breath. “You believe the only reason my brother or I could care for you, or even like you beyond friendship, is because our people, our families, believe you are a goddess?”
Elsa stepped toward Honeymaren with her hands pleading between them. “No, Honeymaren, no! Of course not. I never meant for it to come across that way!”
"But it did, Elsa. It did come out that way! Me, Honeymaren, I couldn't possibly have any depth to my personality... to my interests. No, I live out here, away from Arendelle and what others would call a civilized life, and when a woman with ice powers comes through- I throw myself at her because my people don't know any better! Because we're blinded by our own beliefs. We don't have any rational thoughts!"
"Stop!" Elsa pleaded with her. "You're taking this too far! I never meant-"
“You didn’t even ask me, you know?” Honeymaren began backing away from her. “You didn’t ask me why, or when I started feeling this way... You never stopped to think about how it has been dealing with this all on my own! So, please. Don’t assume to understand what’s going on inside my head!”
She turned her back on Elsa, continuing further away from the village.
“Honeymaren, no, you’ve got this all wrong! This issue is with me, not with you!” Elsa stumbled as she hurried after her.
“You know, it would have been easier on me if you’d just said you don’t feel the same way!” Honeymaren called back, her voice sharp against the growing winds.
As her words hit Elsa’s ears, they forced her into a swift halt. Thick in her shock, she watched Honeymaren go on without her.
How I feel? She wondered with an ounce of fear. Her jaw dropped wide as she pondered.
The reality was, Elsa didn’t know. She’d never stopped to consider others in that capacity before. She had never believed herself capable of being the focus of someone’s attention; not like this anyway. Perhaps it was the years of isolation, or even the decades of suppressing every emotion that came to surface, but Elsa never planned for what might happen in this instance.
Yet, this wasn’t about a plan, and it wasn’t about being someone's interest. This was about Honeymaren and Elsa’s feelings towards her.
Prior to coming to Northuldra, Elsa assumed she was meant to live out her years as the sole ruler of Arendelle. There, she would always have Anna and Kristoff at her side. She never questioned this future before the siren’s call, and she certainly hadn’t hated the idea.
Belonging to herself was comfortable. Elsa had always wanted somewhere to belong, and she found that place within herself. She found happiness in Northuldra, and at Ahtohallan.
However, had that meant she should close herself off to other opportunities where happiness might arrive?
How do I feel about Honeymaren?
Elsa turned to view her hands as if they might hold the answer. Instead, they appeared the same as they always did. They looked the same, but inside- Elsa felt quite different.
As the breeze trickled back in, Elsa released a long sigh.
“What do I do, Gale?”
The wind continued on through out trees.
“I don’t know much about feelings, but I do know I don’t want to lose my friend. She’s too… special to me…”
Gale held little interest in Elsa’s words as she moved about the forest. Elsa hadn’t noticed, though. She sunk down onto her calves and wrapped her arms around her legs.
“Honeymaren likes me…” she whispered.
As the thought settled, her heart finally slowed into a steady rhythm.
From the window to the bed and back again, Anna paced the floors. Adrenaline coursed through her blood. Her eyes held wide, and her head turned erratically.
“Get it together, Anna.” she coached herself. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. You are excited. Get excited!”
Her hands clenched into fists as she halted. Anna feigned a small grin.
It quickly fell away, and her shoulders slumped. “Why am I not excited?”
A sudden knock pulled Anna back to reality. She winced at the voice that called to her through the door for the tenth time that afternoon.
“Uh, Is everything still okay in there?” Kristoff worried. “Anna, come on, please. I just want to know what’s going on!”
“I’m fine!” Anna called back without delay, and with an unconvincing amount of truth. “I mean, everything’s fine! I just… need a few more minutes…”
On fast feet, she marched back toward the balcony. She threw open the doors and wrapped her hands around the railing.
“Come on Gale!” She huffed. “What is taking you so long?”
Anna stretched her hand high, a small letter pinched between her fingers. Yet, despite her pleas, Gale did not appear. The air around Anna remained stagnant. She waited, watching in the distance for the trees to bend or sway.
They never did.
Defeated, Anna sunk with her back to the iron bars. Her head pressed against the cool metal, and her knees drew tight into her chest.
“Please, Gale…” Anna softly began to cry. “I need my sister...”
There was no telling how long she sat there. Elsa had been shocked still amongst the forest floor, for more time than she felt passing. It was her brain, Elsa told herself. It failed to offer any clarity. The idea that Honeymaren liked her, it surprisingly both excited and frightened her. And that response made no sense. How could she both enjoy and hate the idea of having Honeymaren's attention?
Suddenly very warm, Elsa stood from the ground. Gale tickled against her skin as she began to pace.
“Honeymaren has feelings for me?” She said it again. “She likes me, and not as a friend...”
Her expression flashed between confusion and curious.
“Wow…” she released a breath. “Honeymaren likes me... She likes me, likes me, and- Woah!” Elsa was pushed forward by an abrupt gust of wind.
Gale had not stopped to listen to her words, but she was intent on making it back up the hill at speed. She whipped through the trees, cutting a dramatic path in and out of the forest.
Elsa looked to the leaves in her grasp. They created a colorful trail for her to follow, and Elsa decidedly did.
She brushed her hands along the top of her dress, leaving a smudge of dirt against the white fabric. Elsa straightened her spine. She grit her teeth, and continued quickly after Gale.
Gale was her spirit guide of sorts in that moment. She was leading Elsa through a sporadic maze of her own creation.
Before Elsa knew it, she was being directed back toward the harvest fields at speed. When she reached the clearing, the women working were now standing off to the side. They huddled together, their hair whipping wildly behind them, as they watched the wind carry in.
In the passing moments, as Gale’s speed continued to pick up her pace, Elsa’s face pulled low. Her skin prickled in concern. The cold she’d felt before was not from her. It had been from Gale!
She’d been trying to send Elsa a message, to get her to pay attention.
Filled with alarm, Elsa began to run. She ran with Gale, her hair chaotically strewn above her shoulders. She tore between the rows of corn stalks and beans. The worker's eyes were on the sky now, but Elsa refused to stop and see. Gale was carrying her back toward the center village. Elsa wasn’t listening before, but she was all ears now.
Gale’s maze had directed Elsa to a collection of huts, and waiting outside of their exit, was Yelena.
She was looking to the sky, as were the people around her. They spoke anxiously amongst themselves. Their hands wrung in concern. Yelena and the elders, their eyes brightened when Elsa appeared at their sides.
“What do you know about this?” she asked with a snap.
Elsa pulled in a deep breath, winded from her run. “Nothing,” she shook her head. “I know nothing. The wind spirit came through the forest and moved right passed me!”
Yelena frowned. “The wind spirit, too, has stirred. See now, she moves through the village in many directions. She brings chaos with her strength.”
Elsa’s gaze followed Yelena’s finger toward the ground. She watched as the leaves sucked up from the dirt and turned in ungraceful circles. Another pattern of wind ripped in from the west. It shred the leaves into pieces, as if in conflict with itself.
It was erratic, yet amazing to see. “The wind grows angry; confused. As did the fire, the wind now seeks its own revenge.”
Increasing in intensity, Gale spiralled up their feet. “Revenge against whom?” Elsa winced.
“The balance in Northuldra has dissipated. This is why you have lost your control! The spirits are searching for you, Elsa, but your presence remains hidden to them.”
Yelena waved her arms, directing her people from the clearing.
“But, I am right here, and I am trying to fix this!” Elsa called after her.
“We know this.” Yelena promised. She took Elsa’s hand in her own, and dragged her with them. “The people know this, however, the spirits do not. Something is keeping them from finding you, stirring their instincts, and driving them from their home.”
Elsa watched in fear as a group of children cowered behind their parents' legs. They clung to their pants, faces pressed into the fabric. All the while, Gale moved through the village with force. Tarps pulled from the Goahtis. Laundry snagged itself from the lines, and Elsa huddled herself further into the masses of frightened people around her.
“This is only the beginning.” Yelena directed Elsa’s attention back to her. “As with Bruni, I have seen these winds before. I have seen the full might of the spirits. Gale will take down our homes, and tear through our crops...” Her eyes found Elsa’s. “We must get our people down into the ravine.”
Elsa’s brows suddenly struck high. “Honeymaren!” she panicked. “The last time I saw her she was headed away from the village!”
Gaze flickering between Elsa and her people, Yelena’s fists clenched at her side. “Honeymaren is a smart girl. I helped raise my granddaughter well. She will know how to protect herself from a storm of this size.”
Elsa shook her head as Yelena turned her back on her. “I can’t leave her out there on her own!” she shouted. “If she comes back here, and we are gone…”
Elsa’s voice trailed off into the growing winds.
Yelena was busy prepping the elders. Everyone was looking to her for what to do. In that, Elsa wasn’t needed here, and she knew it. She had failed the earth giants. She failed with Bruni, and she would fail with Gale, as well, but she could not fail Honeymaren. Nor could she let down the village that she now called home.
“I will go and get her.”
Yelena’s eyes circled back quickly to Elsa. “Don’t be foolish, Elsa! You musn't.”
However, Elsa was shaking her head again. “No. You have your responsibility to your people. You must take them to the ravine, and I will meet you there.”
Elsa took a cautious step back from her, and Yelena sighed. Her eyes briefly closed in frustration.
“Do not be reckless, child.” When her eyes reopened, Yelena’s face was stern. “Take care, and know your limits!”
“I promise you.” Elsa assured her.
She gave the villagers a final glance before departing against the heavy winds.
Chapter 9: Part Three - In the Air
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: In the Air
Debris swept up from the forest ground, and into Nokk’s face. He brayed, chuffing back at it. Nokk shook his head, continuing on, and pushed back against the harsh winds.
From her station on his back, Elsa shielded her eyes behind an open hand. Blown from the trees, twigs and leaves braced against her. They sliced at her dress. Dust blinded her vision as well as the Nokk’s. Over time, it had grown more impossible to see.
Yet, the two stumbled on.
High above their heads, a loud crack sounded. Elsa looked up as a large branch snapped from its trunk and came hurtling down to earth. With her heel dug into Nokk’s ribs, they leapt aside. The branch fell with force. It shattered at their feet, and Nokk cried out in fear.
Elsa soothed a soft hand over his neck. “I know, and I am sorry, but we must keep going!”
She didn’t know how much time either had left in them. They were out of breath, tired, and disoriented. Every attempt at fighting off Gale, only resulted in increasing her rage. Disgruntled, Elsa left her be. The wind continued its tirade, and Elsa drew mazes around her destruction.
It was still mid-day, however, Gale had pulled the sky thick with dark clouds. Light fought against dark, but in the end, the darkness maintained. And despite the lack of sun, the summer humidity held on. The thick air was difficult to breath in. Elsa found herself choking and straining her lungs. However, she couldn’t stop now.
Honeymaren was out here on her own. She didn’t have Nokk to help guide her way through the storm, and she didn’t have Elsa’s ice powers to fight back against the debris.
This notion consumed Elsa with guilt. If she hadn’t pushed Honeymaren to talk when she didn’t want to, Honeymaren would have been safe down in the ravine with the others. They both would have. Instead, Elsa was caught blinded and stumbling through the forest; once again, all because of her own foolishness.
The limited vision had Elsa relying on her instincts; both her’s and Nokk’s. She’d traveled across the fields, and down the Northern trails, until she could see no more. From there, Nokk had taken over. Elsa only hoped he would be able to locate Honeymaren amongst the storm, because she certainly could not. Her eyes had long since clouded with dust and dirt. She could see no more than a few feet in front of her.
With this, Elsa did notice when they wandered away from the trees. The pine and oak fell out of their mighty clusters. Debris settled from branches and leaves, into dirt and small pebbles. This had meant they were nearing the coast, and the sting of salty air was a welcomed change of pace.
Elsa rubbed deftly at her lids. Nokk slowed as he experienced the same discomfort. He growled in pain over the howling winds, and used his front legs to alleviate the strain. He crooned into himself. Elsa’s hands joined against his face. She knew they could no longer continue like this. She had to get them both to safety.
The two happened upon a collection of boulders. There was a gap between two of them, just large enough for Elsa two hide.
She leapt from Nokk’s back. She took his snout in her hands. “Go.” She encouraged him. “Back to the sea.”
But Nokk didn’t move. He nuzzled her nose further into her palms.
“You will be safe there.” she assured him. “And I will be safe here.”
Nokk’s eyes turned toward the north before coming back to Elsa’s. He brayed, long and deep. His head sank into a bow, and then he took off at a sprint.
No sooner than he had disappeared did Elsa crawl herself between the boulders. She tucked herself into a tight ball, and buried her face between her knees. Even with her ears covered, the wind continued to howl. It moved around the rocks with such force. Elsa knew Gale’s claws sought to leave marks against her skin.
There, between the rocks, she waited. Elsa reminded herself that Honeymaren would know to do the same. She was probably in the same position nearby. Honeymaren was smart. She knew the woods, and she would find a hollow tree or a ledge to tuck herself safely into.
Knowing this did not quiet her guilt, though. Elsa could not help but feel that by being forced to stop her search, she failed her friend. However, Elsa knew she had already done that. She failed Honeymaren the moment she questioned the legitimacy of her feelings. She understood that now.
It had her thinking- Yelena had been so confident Honeymaren would find her way back to the village. She had faith in her granddaughter’s strength and savviness to weather the storm on her own. Elsa wondered how one person could put their fear aside for the benefit of a community? In her own experience, Elsa had never been skilled at that. She had a long running history of making fear-based decisions, all for the sake of her sister; not that she regretted it.
Except, now her reasoning was flawed. Had what Honeymaren confessed to her caused Elsa to stray from the village? If she hadn’t learned of Honeymaren’s feelings for her, would she still be out here risking both of their lives?
Elsa knew her answer, and it surprised her more than she’d thought possible.
She would have sacrificed anything for Honeymaren, just as she would have done the same for her sister. Further reasoning was irrelevant.
Honeymaren was her friend, and no longer a new friend, but a best friend. She was even the first friend Elsa had made outside of her own bloodline or creation. They talked like family. They shared in conversations about their day; their interests, likes, and dislikes. The two bickered with each other. They teased and joked like siblings, but they weren’t siblings. They were friends, however, her friendship with Honeymaren proved much different than what Elsa had experience with Ryder or the other villagers.
What the two of them shared was simple. It was the ease of a good conversation, one that Elsa would find herself going out of her way to have. Their friendship was compatible; the excitement of sharing a walk or allowing Honeymaren to show her around to her favorite secrets of the forest.
When Honeymaren would check to see that Elsa had eaten before eating herself, and when Elsa would check in on Honeymaren before she would go to bed; this was a different kind of friendship. It was a partnership; a silent agreement, even.
Elsa didn’t know why it had taken her so long to figure this out for herself. Perhaps it was because the only friendship she had to compare it to, was the one she had with Anna. And if Elsa were being honest, she certainly wouldn’t have drawn the similarities and differences on her own. Had she not learned of Honeymaren’s feeling for her, Elsa might have continued on blind for the rest of her days.
That, or until Honeymaren made a new friend. Perhaps she’d meet a man or a woman, one whom she would want to marry. Elsa thought she might notice the differences then, when her friendship with Honeymaren was forced to change to order to accommodate her new relations.
The idea of that caused Elsa to feel uncomfortable. If Honeymaren moved on, and their friendship weakened; Elsa decided then that she would rather stay stuck between the rocks.
A life without Honeymaren’s constant teasing and bright-eyed intuition, wasn’t a life worth living at all. For nearly a year, Elsa had Honeymaren involved in each of her days. Not having her, or having her in some other capacity; that idea was terrifying. No sooner than she’d accept that, would Elsa allow the storm to swallow her whole.
The storm… The storm!
Elsa’s head snapped to attention. Her eyes drove wide.
The winds had calmed while she’d lost herself to her thoughts. Gale no longer terrorized the forest with her hurricane like force. Instead, Northuldra sat stagnant. Gale appeared to be heading west. The tops of the trees drew still as Gale traveled away from the forest.
“Another friend lost.” Elsa sighed, and pulled herself to stand.
She wiped her hands along the top of her gown. The fabric was littered with cuts and scratches, while dirt coated the white silky ice. Elsa slid from between the boulders, knowing she probably looked as healthy as her dress, and her eyes quickly drove wide.
Air caught in her throat. So much around her had changed in such a seemingly short amount of time. The Northern lands had crumbled. Tops of trees lopped off before their points. Branches and leaves carried long distances away from their homes. And despite the wind, which continued to travel away, the air was thick with dust.
Elsa forced herself to put worries about damage aside. There was little time to worry about what had been done, when instead she should be concerning herself with what could be done now.
Honeymaren was still out there somewhere, and Elsa needed to know that she was alright.
Allowing Nokk time to recover, Elsa took the next leg of her search by foot.
It was slower. That went without saying, however, it would allow Elsa to be more thorough. On foot, she would leave no rock nor fallen tree branch unturned. She would not stop; not until Honeymaren was back safe in the village.
“Honeymaren!” she called out.
Elsa’s blue eyes scanned the boulder-laiden cliffside.
There was only so much further Honeymaren could have gone before accidently reaching the sea. Decidedly, Elsa circled back toward the south, and hugged the estuary as a boundary line. From there, Elsa stood at the highest peak in all of Northuldra. She could see down across the valley, and through to the forest. If anything moved, Elsa would see it.
“Honeymaren!” she called again. Her feet had started slow, but her pleas were desperate.
Nothing but the waves below responded to her calls. Water lapped at the shore, and crawled over the rocks.
“Where did you go?” she worried.
Elsa’s brow pulled low. The skin against her forehead tightened, and her fists tensed at her side.
With the wind howling in her ears, Elsa hadn’t the headspace for anxious thoughts. She had been on autopilot as she stumbled through the enchanted northern lands. Yet now, the silence fueled her fears. Elsa’s mind conjured up dark thoughts about all the ways in which Honeymaren could have been hurt; all the directions in which Honeymaren would have run to get away from her.
In her panic, Elsa’s eyes scanned her surroundings erratically. She checked the depths of the ledge below, and double checked the shore. Elsa was approaching the falls when she coached herself into relaxing. A fully fledged anxiety attack would not help her now, and it would not help her find Honeymaren.
And so, Elsa continued on.
She tripped over branches and dislodged rocks. She stumbled through the outskirts of the forest, and alongside the river, driving south. There had been no sign of life, whatsoever. Not a deer, nor rabbit lay in sight. Not even the birds had yet to return to the sky. It was a haunting sight, but Elsa held her concerns at bay.
Still, she knew her solo rescue efforts were looking slim.
Feeling defeated and isolated, Elsa decided it was time to return to the village. There, she would be able to recruit the people into helping with her search. They could fan out better, come up with a plan, and locate Honeymaren faster as a group.
Or better yet, perhaps Elsa would get lucky and discover Honeymaren had already returned home.
I hope that’s the case. She thought.
With a plan in motion, Elsa took a confident step forward. She turned toward the village, hands braced against her stomach, just as a voice sounded in the distance.
Elsa froze on queue. She waited, listening again for whatever had startled her.
When nothing came, Elsa shrugged it off.
She took another step, and the voice surfaced once more.
At that, Elsa hurried blindly forward. Her feet caught against rocks and tattered debris. The far off whispers were leading her closer to the rock ledge, and had Elsa’s eyes scanning the fast moving river below.
Elsa heard the voice clearer this time. It channeled throughout the cliffs, and carried back out to sea. The voice traveled from beyond the falls, a little less than a quarter kilo from where she stood.
Newfound adrenaline coursed within Elsa’s blood. She stumbled into a run, and followed along the height of the cliffs.
“Honeymaren!” Elsa shouted as she neared the rolling hills.
Loud waves coursed below her. The wind littered the current with large branches and twigs, and the further Elsa ran, the faster the water churned.
“Help me!” She heard again, and this time from much closer by.
“Honeymaren!” Elsa hoped, though she did not know for certain.
Elsa held her breath.
“I’m down here!” The voice pleaded. “Please! I’m stuck between rocks!”
Where the ledge circled the bend in the river, Elsa stopped to peer out. The valley appeared as if a hurricane had surged through the narrow inlet, tearing the walls apart. Boulders ripped away from where they’d lodged in the cliff face. Now, rocks surfaced like small islands amongst the fast moving stream.
And there, caught between the river and a dismantled flood wall, was Honeymaren. She was looking up at Elsa as if she couldn’t believe she was there. With her body lodged beneath a shallow divot, only the top half of her was exposed. She waved to Elsa erratically with the only arm she could free, as the tide pooled up nearer toward the rock that held her trapped.
“Elsa?” she called to her.
“Don’t worry! I’m coming down!”
Stepping back, Elsa assessed her next move. She could slide in at Honeymaren’s side, but would risk further jostling the precariously fallen rocks. Instead, Elsa decided on her stair method. She could freeze the remaining rockface to the walls, while navigating down to Honeymaren.
Elsa felt her powers begin to surge beneath her skin. She stepped back. Her hands aimed at the wall. She fired at the ledge and a bright light emitted from her palms, but suddenly, it fizzled out into a small flurry.
Frowning, Elsa tried again. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and felt the magic alive within her.
Ice shot from her fingertips. It laced over the boulders, coating them quickly and with precision. In a burst of excitement, Elsa hurried down the embankment. She sailed over the rock ledge, using her powers with ease.
“Elsa!” Honeymaren sighed as she neared.
Elsa could see now how the two boulders had wedged Honeymaren against the floodwall. The rising tide held them into place, but had allowed Honeymaren enough space to free her upper half.
Elsa landed amongst the shore.
“I am going to get you out.” she promised.
Ice cascaded around the first boulder and tugged it from the tide. Elsa tossed it into the river, sending waves splashing amongst the current.
Water surged up Elsa’s feet and onto her calves. She didn’t care.
Elsa ran to Honeymaren’s side and took her arm over her shoulder. Elsa lifted her from the hole.
“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” She leaned Honeymaren against the wall.
Honeymaren briefly fell into her. Her nose pressed into Elsa’s neck, as she worked to calm her breathing. Honeymaren’s arms dragged from Elsa’s shoulder, and she pulled away.
Her hands shook erratically. “I- I think so. My head, I’d knocked it against something… Do I- do I look alright?”
Elsa came to stand at her back. Honeymaren’s long hair was tangled and disheveled by the wind. Brown curls had caked with dust and dirt, and her hat was now missing. Very gently, Elsa pulled the tie from Honeymaren’s braid. She brushed each strand clean from debris and set the loose hair against her back.
She sighed. “You have a good size bump back here, but no blood... We should get you back to the village.”
Honeymaren shook her head. “No. No, not yet, please…” she begged breathlessly. “I need- just give me a minute…”
“There’s no rush.” Elsa assured her. “Catch your breath.” She sat at Honeymaren’s feet.
Honeymaren gasped for air, and her hand caught against her chest. She had her wide brown eyes transfixed on the river across from them.
“I thought-” She stumbled. “I thought I was going to die… drown… The water kept coming and I couldn’t yell loud enough over the wind. I didn’t know who would come for me, or what had happened… I was so scared, and- how did you know?”
Honeymaren turned to Elsa.
“How did you know to look for me here?”
“I didn’t,” She held Honeymaren’s eyes as her lips tugged sheepishly to the side. “I searched for you everywhere I could think to. I- I didn’t want you out in the storm on your own. I’m so sorry I let you down…”
Frowning, Honeymaren’s head tilt. “You didn’t let me down, Elsa. You saved my life! You risked going out in the storm for me, and- thank you!”
“Don’t thank me.” Elsa told her. “It is my fault you were out here on your own in the first place.”
Honeymaren softly laughed. “Technically, it was my own foolishness that drove me out here, but whether it was guilt or genuine concern that led you to me; regardless, I am so thankful for you, Elsa.”
Elsa reeled in a sharp breath. “It wasn’t guilt, Honeymaren. I do care for you. You have to know that?”
Her cheeks stained red. Honeymaren turned away. “I know, I- I didn’t mean to, it’s just-”
Elsa placed her hand on Honeymaren’s knee, stalling her words. “Let’s… talk about this later, okay? We should get back to the village. Someone should see about that injury.”
Honeymaren seemed to be contemplating Elsa’s words. Her eyes had circled back slowly, and she stared.
“Okay.” she finally agreed. She struggled to pull herself to stand.
“Here,” Elsa quickly came in at her side, lifting Honeymaren to her feet. “Easy does it.” she encouraged.
Elsa took Honeymaren’s arm over her shoulder. She started them slowly, trekking them back toward her stairs of ice.
Honeymaren suddenly pulled them to a stop. Her head turned, face lingering close to Elsa’s.
“Is Gale gone?” she asked.
Elsa nodded. “I’m afraid so…”
Though saddened, Honeymaren moved to walk again. Her thoughts were elsewhere as they stumble back up the embankment.
“Elsa…” She whispered, halting them once more. “If Gale is gone, how will you communicate with Arendelle? The bridge between you and Anna has faded… Even if both sides still stand, the spirits have now made it harder for you both to cross…”
Chapter 10: Part One - Of the Water
Where Magic Flows
Part One: Of the Water
"Something has happened in Northuldra. I can feel it."
Kristoff leapt up from his seated position by the door. He rapidly blinked. His wife paid no mind. Anna continued right passed him as she headed quickly for the stairs.
"What? Wait! Anna!" Kristoff balked. He scrambled after her, trying to keep up. "Where are you going? What are you doing? Wait, what did the doctor say?"
Anna flinched as he caught her arm. He spun her toward him slowly. Kristoff's eyes were low, and Anna sucked down on her bottom lip when she saw the concern burning behind them.
"It's nothing." She answered curtly. "I'm fine. The doctor said I'm fine. It must be nerves or something."
"Or something?" Kristoff frowned. "Please don't lie to me, Anna. That something had you you really upset in there."
Anna tugged harshly from his grasp and continued again for the stairs. "It's not important right now! I really need you to trust me on that. Elsa is in trouble, and helping her takes precedence."
His shoulders lowered in defeat. Kristoff fought a groan. "I don't even know how you could possibly know that, but Anna, please! You can't wander off into the forest right now. Not with Arendelle in the state that it is, and certainly not with your health in question."
"My health is fine!" Anna quickly defended herself. She reached the bottom steps and began to cross the hall.
Kristoff was following closely behind her. "Your health is fine, but you just had yourself locked in our bedroom for hours. There is something you don't want to tell me and it has nothing to do with your sister!"
"Why can't you let this go?" she begged.
"Because I'm stubborn!" he shouted after her. "And because you know me better than that. You need to meet me halfway here. Then, we can decide about how to move forward for Elsa's sake. Now, tell me what's wrong, and please don't make me ask again."
"Fine!" Anna spun on him, finding Kristoff standing much closer to her than she would have thought. Her extended finger brushed his chest, and her eyes suddenly turned wild.
Anna's hands pulled anxiously across her face. Her body shook and she stared at him.
"I'm pregnant, okay? Are you happy now? You heard what you needed to hear, so if you'll please excuse me. I have to get back to finding my sister!"
But Anna didn't move. She couldn't turn from him. Her feet froze to the floor, watching as shock stretched over Kristoff's face.
He had paled. His jaw tipped open. Kristoff was staring at her with an expression that wavered between passing out and bursting into tears.
"What?" The word fell from his lips. He dragged in a sharp breath.
Anna's hand clasped tight around her waist and she began to fidget with her fingers.
"Pregnant." she said again, but slower this time. Her eyes dropped to the floor.
Anna felt the moisture building behind her eyes. There was a lump in her throat, and her shoulders curled forward protectively.
"Are you going to say anything?" Anna circled her toes into the tile.
"I-" Kristoff stammered. "I would, but… you are really upset about this?"
"No…" Anna sighed, still looking at her feet. "I just… don't have time to get excited about it yet…" She brushed a lone tear from her cheek.
Kristoff stepped toward her then. Anna couldn't help but tense as his hand raised, and she shivered when his fingers stroked the back of her head. Very slowly, Kristoff directed her to his chest, his arms wrapping loosely around Anna's waist.
As his hold tighten, Anna began to cry.
"I'm sorry!" She managed between tears. "I know I've hurt you. This is why I didn't want to say anything yet!"
"Shh…" He soothed. His hand caressed the length of Anna's spine. "You didn't hurt me. You couldn't, but please, don't fight yourself for feeling this way."
Anna drew back to see him through her tears. "But I should be excited, and I can't because the children of Arendelle are sick, and Elsa can't hear my call! There is something wrong, don't you see? We can't have a baby right now!"
Kristoff stifled a laugh. "Well, lucky for us, babies take a bit of time before making their first appearance. And as for the rest of it, we will figure it out. That's what you have me for, to help you through life. Now, what do you need me to do?"
Anna sniffled, pulling from her husband's arms. She whipped her nose on her sleeve and quickly dried her tears.
"You're right." She whispered. "I can't leave Arendelle. My responsibility is here. I will send Mattias and his men to check on Elsa. They will make sure she's alright."
Anna didn't like her own answer. Kristoff could see that, and so he shook his head.
"Why don't I go?" He told her. "I know how much you need her here. I will find out what is going on in Northuldra, and see to it that Elsa makes it back to us right away."
Her head tilt and the tears returned to her eyes. "I-I shouldn't bother her! Elsa has enough going on, and- wait, you would do that for me?" Anna stumbled emotionally through her words.
Kristoff's lips lowered to her forehead. "Of course I would. I would do anything you asked me to."
"But I need you here." She cried. "Is that selfish of me?"
A slow smile spread across his face. "No, but I will tell you what. Give me two days to collect Elsa, and we will both be back here at your side, faster that Sven can finish a carrot.
"We will get through this together, Anna. I promise. There is no need to stress."
She dried her eyes once more. "Okay," Anna pouted.
Kristoff kissed Anna, brushing his lips softly against hers. His hand settled against her waist, and the second caressed her cheek.
"Go, rest a while longer." he instructed. "I will send Gerda up with some tea."
Anna barely shrugged. Her eyes fell away. She took a slow step back toward the stairs and then turned.
Kristoff watched her go, caught between emotions himself. Anna reached the steps and started her way up them. Her shoulders were pulled forward. Her hands held tight at her side.
Her breathing was shallow, too, when suddenly, she stopped. Frowning, Anna spun back to him.
"Kristoff…" She whispered. Her voice was small.
He took a single step towards her before Anna came running back into his arms.
"I love you." She breathed, holding her face into his neck.
He drew his arms tighter around her. "I love you too, Anna."
Their journey back to the village was slow moving. Honeymaren limped along. The bump on her head had her swaying, and left her vision dizzied. Yet, she continued without complaint. Tucked under Elsa's arm, she allowed herself to be directed cautiously down hill.
"Are you worried?" Honeymaren asked after a long moment passed between them.
The sky above their heads had quickly grown dark. Distant stars began to shine through the endless blue. Knowing nightfall would make navigating over Gale's destruction more difficult, Elsa was forced to pick up speed.
"I think, worried is an understatement at this point." Elsa emitted a small laugh. "Last week I was worried, but now I am scared… scared and overwhelmed, really…"
Honeymaren nodded. She pulled her shall further around her arms. "I am scared, too."
Elsa turned to her and they shared a sad smile. "I will figure it out." She promised.
Honeymaren shook her head. "Together." She encouraged. "We can figure it out together. You have a whole village behind you now, Elsa. Don't forget that."
Her grip on Honeymaren loosened. Elsa quickly looked away. "You sound like Anna. I am not great at asking for help, or at letting people in. Perhaps it's because of the nature of the events I find myself involved in, but I am not in the habit of risking the lives of others."
"Yes, I have noticed that risking your own life is more your speed."
Turning, Elsa watched as Honeymaren arched her brow. A slow smirk started it's way across her dark cheeks.
"Poor family trait, I'm afraid. It appears all the women in my family make a bad habit of that…"
"You could start the transition, you know?" Honeymaren nudged her. "You could change your families ways by learning to rely on the Northuldra to help you."
Elsa hummed. Her eyes pulled back to the trail. "I will think about it."
Their conversation drifted off as the quiet night settled around them. Only the sounds of their footsteps were heard as they continued. The animals of the forest remained hidden away. Gales tirade had sent them scurrying and they had yet to reappear. It was eerie, unsettling even, that Gales violence could spook the entire forest into silence.
"What is your plan?" Honeymaren whispered. "How would you go about handling this on your own?"
Elsa considered her for a moment. Her eyes briefly traveled to Honeymaren's before turning to her feet.
"It may sound strange, but I believe the illness in Arendelle may hold some answers. I am not suggesting it caused the spiritual imbalance, however, I can no longer ignore the possibility that they may be related."
"It does seem strange that both Arendelle and Northuldra would be facing catastrophes at the same time. Both, barely a year after your sister has become queen, and you, the fifth spirit." Honeymaren agreed.
She pulled from Elsa's hold, stopping her when Elsa tried to follow with her hands.
"I'm okay." Honeymaren assured her. "I will let you know if I get dizzy again, but it's easier to think this way."
Elsa pushed her hair behind her ears, revealing the blush circling her neck. "I'm sorry. That wasn't very appropriate of me."
Honeymaren laughed. "I think we can forget what is and isn't appropriate right now, don't you think? After All, I did just take a rock to the head."
"I suppose so." Elsa whispered. "Though, the last thing I'd want to do is make you uncomfortable."
Honeymaren pursed her lips. Her fingers flexed in irritation. "That aside, I think it may be time to consider that there are other forces at work here. I can't help but feel that what's going on is some desperate ruse to keep us distracted from the bigger picture at play."
Nodding, Elsa began fidgeting with her hands. "I had that thought as well. Someone, or something, wants to weaken us, to make us feel vulnerable. If I tell you something, will you promise to keep it between us?"
Honeymaren frowned. "Of course, Elsa."
Elsa faced her hands as she fought for the words. She wasn't skilled in the art of sharing her thoughts. Honeymaren knew this, and placed a hand on Elsa's arm for encouragement.
"Back at the river," Elsa began. "Something happened… something I am not sure how to explain."
Her expression flinched. Honeymaren responded by pulling her hand up onto Elsa's shoulder.
"Tell me." She softly instructed.
Elsa bit her lip. Her fingers corded together. "When I was rescuing you from the embankment, my powers… failed. I felt them as I always do, but nothing came to the surface. It was as if they were blocked, just for an instant, and then as quickly as they were gone, the magic came rushing back in…"
Honeymaren's hand fell back to her hip. "A possible side effect of the spirits leaving?" She considered.
Elsa shook her head. "I don't think so. My powers never relied on the spirits before. I had them for years before coming to Northuldra. It seems strange that they should fail me now because of this."
"Not unless your powers are directly attached to Ahtohallan now." Honeymaren suggested. "As it weakens, so do you."
She drew her hands to her shoulders, and Elsa hugged herself protectively. "Further proving my, 'benefiting off our vulnerabilities' theory."
"I might have to agree." Honeymaren nodded. "But the big question still remains-"
"Who or what is trying to weaken us?" Elsa finished for her.
"Exactly." Honeymaren sighed.
The two returned to the village at full-dusk. Greeted by soft chatter and a roaring fire, the people turned to watch as the two newcomers strode in. They shuffled a bit, relieved by their return. However, their spirits were low, and so the response was limited.
Elsa ignored the stares. She led Honeymaren directly to Yelena.
Though mild in expression, Yelena appeared more than happy to see them.
She sighed as she took Honeymaren's hands in hers. "You're alright."
"I'm afraid she has an injury that needs to be examined." Elsa interjected. "An abrasion to the back of her head."
Yelena turned Honeymaren around at once, quickly drawing back her hair.
"I'm fine." Honeymaren assured her. She flashed Elsa a fierce glare. "Someone is just being paranoid."
"Paranoid or not, have Brandr see to you immediately. He will take care of this." Yelena nudged her toward the gathering. "Leave Elsa and I to speak. We have something important we must discuss."
Honeymaren's eyes scanned between them. Her lips pulled to the side. She watched sadly as Yelena directed Elsa away from the fire and out of sight behind the trees.
Under the veil of night, Elsa and Yelena stood beside piles of rubble. Huts barely reconstructed after Bruni, hadn't been able to withstand Gale.
Elsa's wandering gaze turned to Yelena. She stared back, looking stern.
"How are the others?" Elsa inquired.
Straightening, Yelena's hands clasped at her waist. "A few cuts, some wind burn; all minor." She explained.
"We were lucky." Elsa sighed. Yet, Yelena's frown only deepend.
"This time," She stressed sadly.
"What do you mean?" Elsa's weight swayed between feet.
"Elsa, we must prepare ourselves for the final departure." she began. "You know as well as I do, what is to come next."
She shivered. Elsa's heart began to race. "I do, but-"
"No." Yelena shook her head. "We cannot waste anymore time believing that we have the power to fix this before it begins. Nokk will drown us all. We know its strength. Many of us have seen it before, and you should know this better than anyone else. We cannot wait around for it to happen, Elsa. We don't have enough of a fight left in us to try and suddenly fail."
Lines pulled through the skin of Elsa's forehead. "I need Nokk. I need to be here to access Ahtohallan."
"Ahtohallan has already closed its waters to you. If not now, then soon. You have no business going back there until you are certain of where Nokk's loyalty lies." Yelena's teeth grit. "Whatever troubles we face now are beyond the spirits' understanding."
Elsa pursed her lips. She turned her hands at her side. "What are you suggesting?"
She could see the pain lingered behind Yelena's eyes. The words on her tongue would hurt for her to admit aloud. Yelena fought with her thoughts, with her fear, and her leadership.
"We must consider that it is time to leave the forest. We must get to higher grounds before the waters take our lands, and then take us down with it."
Elsa fell silent. A hard weight settled against her chest.
"It is not a permanent relocation." Yelena continued, placing her hand in Elsa's. "However, for now, it is our best chance for survival."
Sighing, Elsa pulled from Yelena's touch. "I did not want it to come to this."
"Of course not." Yelena drew Elsa's eyes back to hers. "Northuldra is just as much your home as it is ours. What hurts us, hurts you. However, it is important for you to remember that there are some forces on this planet, Elsa, for which not even you can tame. And we must protect each other from them."
Elsa bit her lip. She felt small under Yelena's stare.
Yelena didn't blame Elsa for losing control over the spirits, nor did she hold her responsible for their destruction. Despite this, Elsa still expected herself to fix it.
"I know of a place." She finally spoke. "There is a home between here and Arendelle that I built for myself when I thought I had nowhere else to go. Our people will be safe there for now." Elsa promised.
Yelena's eyes briefly closed. When they reopened, she simply nodded.
"When the sun rises, then."
Hours later, Elsa laid awake.
Tucked into one of her many, quickly crafted ice huts, her eyes held wide. Elsa looked up at the ceiling and willed herself to fall asleep. Her thoughts ran rampant with night. Anxiety coursed through her blood. There was too much to consider and therefore, her mind could not settle.
Elsa turned on to her side. She trapped her hands beneath her head. Clenching her eyes closed, Elsa held her breath.
After a long moment, she released it, and fell with a thud onto her back once more.
A knock sounded at her door.
Elsa quickly sat up. She brushed down her hair and readjusted her nightgown.
"Come in," She softly instructed.
Honeymaren's head squeezed between the tarp and its frame. She appeared almost shy as she glanced back at Elsa who was leaning against her pillow.
"You're awake, good. I just need a minute." Honeymaren let herself in, sliding the tarp flat behind her.
Slowly, she crossed the room. Her brown eyes held at her hands as she came to stand at Elsa's bedside.
"How can I help you?" she asked. Elsa rose from the blankets to make room against the bed.
Honeymaren didn't sit. "I just came to apologize."
Confusion creased Elsa's forehead. "Apologize, to me?" She blinked. "If anything it should be me who still owes you the apology. It was my fault, afterall, that you were hurt today."
"There is no need for that. I pushed you into your reaction with my jealousy. You have nothing to apologize for." Honeymaren's hands pulled through her loose hair and she released a muffled groan. "Listen, Elsa, I was being innapropriate before-"
Elsa lifted her hand to stop her, but Honeymaren charged on.
"I don't like change. I know that is not a good excuse for being so forward, but it's the truth. For most of my life, things remained exactly the same, day in and day out. I used to crave new worlds to explore, having new people to meet, and then, I met you."
Elsa's cheeks tinged pink as she stared. Honeymaren wouldn't look at her as she spoke, and that had Elsa feeling nervous. Even when Honeymaren finally sat beside her, her eyes stayed on her lap. She wasn't touching Elsa, and left a more than cautious amount of space, yet Elsa could still feel the heat trapped between them.
"When I met you, everything changed, and not only for me, but for everyone in the village. Suddenly, my small, isolated world was flooded with light. Northuldra no longer felt as tiny as it had when I was growing up here. My days were once filled with dreams for a better life, but then suddenly- I was learning to enjoy my days for exactly what they were.
"I would wake up earlier, just for the chance to see you before you set off for Ahtohallan. I found myself staying up late, all so we might enjoy one of our fireside chats before bed. I'd be walking amongst the forest and see something I wanted to share with you. Then, I would wait all day for you to return, all so I could do just that.
"I don't know exactly when the lines began to blur for me. Perhaps they were never all that formal of lines to begin with, but I learned to like you, Elsa, and more than a friend should feel towards another friend- and Ahtohallan knows, I never meant for it to happen. I wished it hadn't, so I might always feel content with the way things are between us right now. But we both know how lives change, and sometimes with very little prompting from ourselves. When Ryder told me of his feelings for you, I thought, if not him, then soon it would be someone else fueling that change."
Honeymaren sighed and flexed her fingers. Elsa had been surprisingly calm as she sat beside her listening. Worried that if she stopped Elsa might push her away, Honeymaren decidedly hurried to finish.
"I began dreading the time for when things between us would become different. When I saw you speaking with Ryder, it was suddenly happening faster than I could have prepared for. Because of that, I allowed my fear to spiral. I reacted on my jealousy, and you didn't deserve my response.
"And you don't have to say anything- not now, and not ever if you don't like. This wasn't supposed to be forced on you this way. Honestly, I was kind of hoping to take this secret to my grave..."
Honeymaren chuckled sadly, and Elsa could see that she meant what she had said. Conceal don't feel, came to Elsa's mind; she shook her head, realizing just how much weight those words could hold here.
If Honeymaren kept her feelings for Elsa suppressed for the rest of her life, then she would never experience living to the fullest extent. If she were to carry this torch in secret forever, she would never be able to open herself up to love from another source.
There would always be the doubt of, but what if I had said something?
Turning to her, Elsa brought her feet onto the bed. Her back drew further into the pillows. It was easier to look at Honeymaren now that she wasn't looking at Elsa, herself. However, her disheartened face still caused Elsa greif.
"You said, I believed you could only like me because of your personal beliefs-"
Honeymaren's eyes struck wide. "-no, it's okay! You don't have to explain!"
Elsa held up her hand. "But I would like to try, if you'll let me?"
Hesitating, Honeymaren frowned. She bit down on her lip and turned her head. After a long moment, she finally nodded.
"Thank you," Elsa began.
With her hands on her knees and her thighs to her chest, Elsa kept her eyes cautiously on Honeymaren.
"I know now how that came across, and thinking back on it, I understand why you were so upset with me. I degraded your feelings for me, and you were right in saying I never allowed you to validate them.
"But what you have to understand is this- I have been a figure, a title, for all of my life, and the reality of that holds very little merrit when compared to the size of the storm brewing inside of me. Growing up, not even my sister knew what I was capable of. I was a queen with responsibilities, but I couldn't hold a conversation with a stranger without fearing the worst possible outcome; without conjuring up all the assumptions that those strangers might make about me.
"I'm aware that's not the same person who wandered into Northuldra all those many months ago. She was a little more open by then, and a lot more confident than the person I knew for my first twenty years. Despite that growth, though, that scared princess, she's never really going to go away. She taught me to look at the world differently, and that will always be the hardest thing for give up.
"Because of that skewed perception, when I learned of your feelings for me, I reacted with fear. I didn't understand how it could be possible for someone to like me without being afraid of the person I was. I didn't want you to be interested in me because I was quickly reminded of all the ways in which I would let you down.
"And that's why I said, it's not you who was the issue here. I have been lucky to have you in my life everyday, Honeymaren, but it's often me whose luck runs dry. I would only end up hurting you in the long run; if not physically, then by saying something I don't mean, or can't understand myself.
"So, please forgive me for insulting you and your people. I wish I never said what I did. I should have shown you the trust you deserved when you asked for it, and for that I am sorry."
Honeymaren was rendered silent. Her eyes turned, flickering over Elsa's, long after hers had fallen away.
She cleared her throat. "There is, um, a lot to unpack there." Honeymaren teased.
"Tell me about it."
Honeymaren's lips drew to the side. "You know, for someone who is so afraid of hurting people, you spend an awful amount of time trying to save the lives of others."
Elsa shook her head. "My sister is the true lifesaver. It is her who always has to find a way to clean up my mess."
Her words were not spoken with as much seriousness as Honeymaren would have believed. In fact, Elsa was almost smiling. Her eyes were light with humor, and she lessened the hold on her knees.
"There's a twenty two year old Northuldra woman sitting in your hut tonight that says otherwise." She teased. "If it hadn't been for you, I probably would not be sitting here right now at all…"
"Don't say that!" Elsa pushed lightly against Honeymaren's arm.
"But it's true!" She pushed back. "You saved my life today, Elsa."
A slight blush drew to her cheeks and Elsa turned away.
"You know, I was thinking about what you said when I was out looking for you. The storm was at its worst, and I was caught between rocks. I wondered if I would still be out there risking my life to find you, even if I didn't know about your feelings for me? And of course the answer was, yes. I knew at that moment, and even before it, that I would sacrifice anything to keep you safe, just as I would do for Anna.
"And you know how I feel about my sister, so you know what a powerful comparison that would be for me to draw. However, I knew it was different, too, because what we share is different than what I have with Anna, and its different than every relationship I have made since coming here.
"I thought about change, just as you described it. I considered how I would feel watching you with someone else- the way you thought I had been with Ryder."
Elsa paused, and Honeymaren's eyes widened.
"And…" She encouraged.
Elsa sighed before continuing. "-and… I decided I wouldn't like it; that it would be difficult for me to wrap my head around. The idea of changing what we have together to accomodate someone else, or not having you in my life at all- no, I wouldn't want that."
Honeymaren nodded silently. Her gaze joined Elsa's against the bedspread. She wanted to press for more, understanding where Elsa's thoughts were leading, but she wouldn't. Elsa had already said enough to put her mind at ease. They were on the same page now, and tonight that was enough for Honeymaren.
"You know, I don't think you quite grasp how thankful I was to have you today." Honeymaren's light tone drew Elsa's eyes back hers once more. "I felt so foolish for running away, and when the wind picked up, I kept right on walking. By the time I found myself hiding near the river, the waters were rising, and before I knew it, I was stuck. I was terrified..afraid..and feeling so, incredibly stupid. I thought you might be too angry to look for me, and I knew the storm came on too suddenly for the rest of the village to realize I had walked away."
Elsa felt surprised as a tear pulled down Honeymaren's cheek. After a moment, a second joined on the other side.
"I wasn't just a little scared." She continued. "I kept thinking about all the things I'd never get to say nor do. I would never have the chance to apologize for the things I'd said, or discover how you rescue the spirits and save Northuldra. At that moment, I felt certain I'd finally stepped too far, just like the lullaby said, but then, you saved me- and I still don't feel very deserving."
At that Honeymaren's few tears turned to cries. Elsa felt helpless, and a little desperate, even, to help her stop. She had never seen this vulnerable side of her friend before. To say it was surprising would be an understatement.
Without thinking, Elsa pulled her toward her. She tucked Honeymaren into her arm, with her head softly resting against her chest.
"I'm sorry if this is too much." Elsa whispered. "Given everything else… I just wanted to help."
Honeymaren's head shook. "No, this is.. Nice." Her tears persisted.
Elsa's hand worked through her curls, mindful of the bump. "You are just as deserving as everyone else to be saved by me." She promised. "There wasn't anything you could say or do that would have stopped me from going out there today."
Honeymaren was silent. Her arm wrapped cautiously over Elsa's waist.
"May I stay here… just for a moment longer?" she asked. "I'm not ready to go back to my hut alone."
Elsa smiled and relaxed her legs. "You can stay here for as long as you would like."
Chapter 11: Part Two - Of the Water
Where Magic Flows
Part Two: Of the Water
She awoke warmer than she had in a long while. It reminded Elsa of winter evenings when her bedroom fireplace had been forcibly lit. Yet, this wasn’t quite the same. It was a surprising warmth, stemming from the steady pressure applied to her abdomen. It roused her from sleep; a deep sleep.
Driven curious, Elsa opened her eyes. She looked down, but her head held in place. Something had braced itself under her chin and tickled at her nose. She looked to the side. Tangles of brown hair splayed out across her chest and pillow, masking her view and blending with her own.
Honeymaren had evidently stayed the night. Knowing she needed the comfort of a friend, and quite appreciating the closeness herself, Elsa didn’t mind. In fact, she enjoyed it. Elsa felt giddied by this new warmth, and considered she might not be as cold as she always believed she was.
During the night, Elsa had remained impossibly still. Subconsciously, she must have believed moving would jar Honeymaren from sleep. Instead, Elsa’s arms had wrapped around her. Her hand caught protectively at Honeymaren’s waist, and the second ran the length of her back.
Honeymaren, however, must have spent the whole night tossing and turning. She rotated completely onto her side and buried her face into Elsa’s neck. Her right leg stretched, pining Elsa’s knees to the mattress. Even Honeymaren’s hands grappled on desperately. Like a leetch, she secured each part of her to Elsa, seemingly afraid she might leave her while she slept.
Elsa wondered if she should feel embarrassed by their predicament. She certainly didn’t feel that way. She felt calm and sedated by the warmth surrounding her, but Elsa was also cautious. She considered how it would feel to be caught in this manner, by her sister or someone in the village. Was it appropriate for Honeymaren to be here with her? Were they breaking some unspoken rule for conduct by engaging in closeness? In that moment, Elsa wasn’t the only one thinking this. As Honeymaren stirred beside her, she quickly retracted herself from Elsa’s arms with a swift tug.
“Gah!” she nearly shouted. She sat up straight, eyes wild with concern. “I am so sorry!”
Rising to follow, Elsa shrugged. “It’s alright. I told you to stay... You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know, but,” Honeymaren paused, blushing madly. “I never meant to fall asleep here! You were being so kind to me, and I would never want to take advantage, and- I’m sorry!”
Elsa giggled. “Aren’t I always kind to you? Besides, like I said, it’s really okay…”
Despite the subtle upward movement of Elsa’s brow, Honeymaren didn’t appear convinced. Her eyes trailed over Elsa’s face. She began to sweat. With her gaze flickering between the bed and the door, Honeymaren tilted her head.
Her expression brightened noticeably. A laxidasical smirk tugged at her lips and she stood. Honeymaren said nothing as she moved toward the door. Humor bloomed behind her eyes, and she turned back to Elsa.
“You like me.” Honeymaren smiled. Hand caressing the tarp, her shoulder pulled into her ear. A small giggle escaped her throat and she quickly left the hut.
“Mercury?” The word left Anna’s lips with ease. She felt it rolling awkwardly over her tongue.
Standing beside her was Doctor Laugen and Mattias. They stood at the edge of the dock, overlooking the fjord. The doctor handed Anna a small vial from his pocket. Squinting, she lowered her eyes to the silver liquid behind the glass and frowned.
“It was discovered along the shore by one of our merchants, your majesty.” Mattias explained. “It appears to have spread two kilometers south of the town.”
Anna blinked. She turned to Doctor Laugen. “You believe this to be the culprit behind the illness? It looks harmless!”
Seeing her face scrunch in confusion, Doctor Laugen’s eyes lifted. “When this discovery was brought to my attention, I had to go back to my books. I remembered reading about mercury during my study years at the academy. It was used in ancient Chinese medical practices as an attempt to aid in the healing of epidermis infections. That was, until they learned of the long term health effects it caused. Patients treated with mercury began developing stomach sickness. In extreme cases, patients died. You see, what mercury does is it builds up in our bodies. During prolonged exposure, it poisons and breaks down the different organ systems that allow us to function.
“The reason mercury has affected the children so drastically is because their young age and manner of digestion. It has made them vulnerable to immediate illness. It’s summer. They’ve been playing in, and drinking from the fjord. Their underdeveloped nervous system is weak to the poisonous nature of mercury. Overtime, the adults would have been at risk for the same decline in health. The longer we ate from our fish supply and drank the infected waters, we would have fallen ill as well; and with no known way of counteracting it.”
Shaking the vial, Anna’s frown deepened. “I don’t understand. How does this amount of mercury end up in our water supply? Has it always been there? Were we at risk of poisoning all along- my sister never said…”
“This is difficult for me to answer because mercury is a naturally occurring element. It derives from an ore called cinnabar, found in tropical climates and deep-well mines. However, because both cinnabar and mercury are highly coveted exports, I imagine large shipments of ores navigate through our trade routes on a monthly basis.”
Anna’s expression only continued to darken. “What you’re saying is, this whole ordeal could have been as simple as an overturned shipping vessel?”
Taking a deep breath, Doctor Laugen’s hands turned at his sides. “Again… difficult. Cinnabar must be mined in order to extract the mercury, and to produce the levels we are seeing in our fjord- that would require multiple overturned vessels. Or-” he paused. His face flickered cautiously. “-or this would have required a strategic exploit of our waterways.”
Anna hummed. “Many ships, dumping many supplies…”
Nodding, Doctor Laugen watched her eyes pull back toward the vial. Anna’s nail tapped against the glass and she sighed once more.
“Where do we go from here, then?” She asked. Her attention returned. “ I’m aware it falls to me to locate our culprit still, and to lead the motion to make amends, but what do we do about the fjord? How do we protect ourselves from being poisoned?”
“Really, it’s as simple as finding an uncontaminated supply, and it is as complex as flooding the fjord with fresh water to dilute the mercury concentration. Neither is without caution, of course, and constant testing efforts, but it is reversible. Until then, we will have to be diligent about avoiding drinking and eating from the fjord.”
Biting her lip, Anna’s shoulders drew to her ears. “This will create complications amongst the markets. We will have to direct all fishing efforts out to sea.”
“We will put more men on ships to assist.” Mattias suggested. “If we double our fishing efforts we will still be able to meet our winter stock quota.”
Anna returned the vial to Doctor Laugen before burying her hands in the fold of her dress. “The Royal Guard will address the fish supply. I will meet with the counsel and report to the village, and Doctor Laugen, if you could, see to it that your apprentices locate trainees for water maintenance. With those efforts, we will be off to a good start.”
“Of course,” The doctor nodded. “I will put together a team of our best scientists from the area. I will teach them what they need to know and put them in charge of conservation.”
WIth her lips pursed, Anna lowered her eyes. “Good,” Her chin jerked downward sharply. “Let’s get this behind us, and I will worry about finding out how and why it happened in the first place.”
“We will be relocating South of the forest entrance.”
Standing before her people, Yelena addressed them calmly. Her hands wrung patiently at her waist, and her wide eyes scanned the crowd.
She waited for their chatter to die down before continuing.
“It would be foolish to wait for the final leg of this revolt before making moves toward safety. Having said this, it is in our best interest to seek refuge beyond the borders of our home. Graciously, Elsa has offered up her palace in the North Mountain for our people to recollect, while we plan how to take back our lands.”
As she finished, the villagers' commentary surfaced all at once. Confusion stuck their faces and their words scrambled over each other’s.
“But when will we be leaving?”
“What of our supplies?”
“When will we return?”
Batting her hands, Yelena silenced them.
“We will be leaving before mid-day. I suggest everyone partakes in breakfast, and collects any necessity that will ensure our survival for at least two remote weeks.”
“Yelena, Yelena!” Their voices barreled together once more.
“Yelena, what about the reindeer?” It was Ryder. He was frowning as he hobbled forward against his crutch.
Stifling a sigh, Yelena turned to the herders. “We will drive the reindeer to the northern border, but that is as far as we can take them. As I understand it, the mountain impasse is too narrow. The deer would not be expected to survive the trip.”
As the questions continued, Honeymaren pulled Elsa aside. “You knew about this?” she frowned. “-last night, you knew about this, but you didn’t say anything to me?”
Her tone was flat, but showed no indication that she was angry.
“It didn’t come up. We had other matters to discuss, and I knew it would not change the outcome…”
Honeymaren’s hands pulled under her arms. A spike of anxiety shot through her spine. She had never left the forest before.
“I do want you to know, though, I will not be going with you.” When Elsa continued, Honeymaren’s gaze turned wide. “I told Yelena this morning that I intend to stay in the forest. I must be here to protect our home after the last of our magic fades. Perhaps once our defenses are down, our culprit will finally show its face...”
Honeymaren shook her head. “Are you crazy?” she balked. “You can’t take on the Nokk by yourself! It’s not safe, and it’s insane for you to stand in harm's way because you believe there’s a small chance you might find an answer!”
Pulling in a deep breath, Elsa kept her emotioned reined in. “I tamed the Nokk on my own. He is no match for my powers.”
“Yeah, except it was only yesterday you told me that your powers were failing! May I remind you of that? What if Nokk rebels and you find yourself without the ability to counter his attack? You would plan to sacrifice yourself all because of a theory that whoever is behind this is waiting until the spirits fall before attacking us?”
Elsa reached to take her hand, but Honeymaren stepped back out of reach. “I’m sorry." she replied with a snap. "-but there is nothing you can say that will change my mind. I will be staying here with or without your support.”
“And what does Yelena have to say about you risking your life for us?” she hummed. “I can hardly see her agreeing to something as idiotic as this plan!”
She folded her arms. Elsa’s eyes lowered sharply. “She is not thrilled about it, but she knows that it is pointless to try and convince me otherwise.”
“If you do this, I am staying with you!”
It felt wrong to smile, but Elsa couldn’t help it. Honeymaren sounded so much like Anna at that moment; wanting to throw everything aside to help her. The sentiment had Elsa feeling warm with affection.
“You know I would never allow that to happen.” she whispered. “No sooner than I would decide to leave, would I permit you to stay behind with me.”
Honeymaren fell silent. Her attention dropped to her feet. Agitated, tight fists drew to her sides and she scoffed as she kicked at the dirt.
“You will be traveling to a secluded mountain; the location of a home I built for myself when I had nowhere else to turn.” Elsa explained. “It is well-hidden, and you will be safe there, and that is exactly how I would like for you to remain.”
She stood there for a long moment. Honeymaren’s face was stern and her eyes flickered while her mind drew quickly between thoughts. Finally, feeling her anger spike, she stomped away.
Elsa painfully watched her go, forcing herself to believe that at the end of the day this would all be for the best.
Within the hour, the Northuldra village was packed for their departure. Elsa meant to see them off, but she found herself walking away when the herders set out with the reindeer. It was more upsetting than she anticipated; to watch her family leave the forest. The sense of guilt that came with it was devastating, and Elsa couldn’t help but blame herself.
When Honeymaren drew her bag to her shoulder, she turned her head to find Elsa. Her friend was nowhere to be seen. Angry or not, her disappearance stung. Part of her wondered if she would ever see Elsa again, and now Honeymaren had been robbed of that final opportunity to do so.
She was made to hold back tears as the village moved forward. Her nails dug into her palm, and she struggled for a deep breath. Honeymaren’s eyes directed to the South. She took up the rear of the group, and forced herself follow as her people began heading... into the unknown.
A mile North, Elsa was seated on the bank of the Dark Sea. Her eyes glued to the horizon, leading out to Ahtohallan.
Nokk was stationed calmly at her side. He brayed into her open hand, nuzzling Elsa softly.
She knew he’d turn soon. It was only a matter of time, but he had come to her on his own. While she softly cried against the shore, Nokk conjured up from the sea. Allowing her fingers to drift over his cool form, Elsa wanted to savor the moment.
In a matter of a few weeks, she had lost the earth giants, Bruni, and Gale; her most treasured friends. Elsa was on the brink of losing Nokk now, too, and she wanted the peace of knowing she would get to say goodbye.
“If I may ask you for one favor,” Elsa turned to him. “-please, try and fight this.
“Don’t leave me to care for Northuldra on my own. I need you at my side.” she pleaded.
Chapter 12: Part Three - Of the Water
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: Of the Water
Nokk remained at Elsa’s side until the sun set; when the stars began to twinkle amongst the night sky. Only when full darkness surrounded her, did Elsa start for camp. Watching her go, Nokk was sadly forced to return to the sea. His lost eyes pulled back to her, only briefly, and then he faded into an incoming wave.
Regretfully, Elsa had to wonder if that was the last time Nokk would truly be her ally? As with the others, his time to rebel would come. Nokk would revolt against the forest, and leave this place behind. He would be lost to these lands, searching the seas for somewhere new to live out his days.
As she walked back to her hut, Elsa considered what might be coming next. After Nokk turned, would she call back the village, or should she wait and see if someone stepped forward? If this was all a ruse to render the forest defenseless, leading an attack after Nokk would be the logical ploy.
And how would their villain enter the picture? Elsa’s thoughts continued to spiral amongst her mind. What face would this enemy have, and what was their end goal? Would they lead an attack, or would they make the time to explain? There was so much Elsa hadn’t considered before now. Yet, her time was up. She was at the brink of the end, and she could feel it. Her days had been filled with so much turmoil lately, she failed to realize just how many had gone by.
Feeling anxious, Elsa knew sleep would be a moot attempt at passing the time. She wasn’t certain her mind was even capable of resting at this point. Still, there was nothing left to do but wait; wait for Nokk’s rebelion, and wait for their villain to appear.
Upon returning to camp, defeated and stressed, Elsa dragged her feet toward her hut.
She fell back on the bed with a thump. Her eyes held wide at the ceiling, stomach unsettled and appetite, low. What she did next made no difference in the grand scheme of things. The only guarantee Elsa had, was that she’d face whatever she needed to when that time came. She could plan, and she could worry. Yet, neither would help her in the long run. Elsa knew she should gather her strength; prepare herself to do the next right thing. However, she hated not knowing. It made her impatient and uncomfortable.
Despite the thought that she would be unable to sleep, Elsa decided she must have. One moment her eyes were open, and the next; she was fighting a haze of fatigue to push herself to sit. Rising, Elsa didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious. Only the desperate need for more proved that it couldn’t have been for longer than an hour or two.
When she was fully alert, Elsa spun against the mattress. Her feet were planted into the floor. She dragged a cold hand over her face and stretched into her arms. She was awake now, but the question was why. For as tired as she suddenly felt, Elsa considered that waking could not have happened unprompted.
Her eyes raised slowly. Elsa listened to the world outside her hut. She expected wind in the least, but remembered Gale had gone away. She was on her own out here, and only Nokk remained.
That thought filled her with a tinge of fear.
The earth and its waterways were silent. Everything around her was incredibly still. There was no sign of threat, nor spiritual disturbance, just as it had been before she fell asleep.
Elsa was alone.
Or was she?
A fire popped and crackled beyond the walls of her tent. At the sound, Elsa’s eyes drove wide, and she leapt up quickly from her bed. She hurried for the exit, feet unsteady over the ground.
Elsa threw back the tarp and ran out into the dark night.
Relief coursed through her instantly, but then she was met with anger; pure unbridled rage. It barreled deep in her chest as it rose to the surface.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
The words burst from her throat. She stomped across the clearing. Sitting at the fire pit, with her face awash in an orange glow, was Honeymaren. She didn’t look up as Elsa approached. She knew it would not take long for Elsa to sense her arrival, and so she expected anger; even as quickly as it came.
“Have you eaten anything?” Honeymaren asked her calmly.
Elsa blinked. Her fists drew tight. “What? Have you lost your mind? What are you doing here?”
Drawing in a sharp breath, Honeymaren released the contents of her canvas sack into the pot above the fire. “I’m assuming you haven’t... Afterall, you are terrible at taking care of yourself unless forced to.”
Infuriated by her nonchalant demeanor, Elsa placed herself between Honeymaren and the flames. Her hands were wide on her hips, but Honeymaren looked right through her.
Elsa snatched the spoon from her hand. “I’ll ask you again, what the hell are you doing here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Her eyes pulled up to Elsa’s. “I’m making lentils.”
Elsa pinched the bridge of her nose. Her arms folded over her chest. “You know what I mean! What are you doing here instead of at the North Mountain?”
Standing, Honeymaren stole back her spoon. Her expression layered between spirited and mad. “Did you really expect me to go there without you? I never even made it to the trails before I circled back this way.”
Groaning, Elsa fell to the log where Honeymaren had sat. “Mare… No! This is not what I needed from you! Do you not understand what’s coming?”
“It’s because of what’s coming that I decided to come back.”
“No! That is foolish. Don’t you get it? What if I can’t protect you, Honeymaren? What if Nokk floods the village? What if he throws waves that take down the trees? I can’t defend Northuldra like I would without you here! What were you even thinking?” Elsa’s breathing came in short gasps. Her hands tugged through her hair, threatening to snap each strand from its root.
“Hey, woah! Relax, would you? I can swim. I’m a fighter, you know!” She sat beside Elsa with a hand to her knee.
Too tired to remove it, Elsa glared instead. “This isn’t about knowing how to swim, Honeymaren! This is about having no where to swim to, and having no way of protecting yourself against the Nokk!”
Her hand defiantly pulled away, and Honeymaren leaned forward to stir the pot. “Well, I’m here now, and by my own rights, so you might as well get over it. Besides, I am not looking for you to save me from drowning. I am here trying to protect you, in case anything goes wrong!”
“How?” Elsa fought back. “How do you expect to do that? You don’t have powers! You are defenseless against the spirits. Not even twenty-four hours ago you were more frightened than I had ever seen you before, and all because you nearly drowned in the river! Do you not understand that is an actual reality for you if you stay?”
If the question scared Honeymaren, she didn’t show it. Her expression held stern and her gaze on Elsa never faltered.
“I don’t need powers to protect you. Don't you understand that?” Her brow arched coyly as she sat back on her hands. “The way that I feel about you, the lengths I would go to keep you safe; that makes me more powerful than your magic could ever be.”
Sighing, Elsa shook her head. “I wish that were true. I do, but I’m afraid that caring for me is not going to help you here!”
Finally drawing her eyes back to the flames, Honeymaren pursed her lips. “It doesn’t matter. I’m here now. You’d save yourself a world of energy if you’d just shut up about it, okay?”
Honeymaren never failed to surprise Elsa with her actions, and with her words. Unlike those she was raised beside in Arendelle, Honeymaren wasn’t afraid of her. She took little care in how she spoke to Elsa, never worrying she might push her into reacting dangerously. She trusted her, and though that sentiment was sweet; Elsa wished that it could be enough to calm her in that moment.
But it wasn’t. Elsa was too upset to feel the warmth of Honeymaren’s trust, and she was too angry that she might be forced to see their friendship come to an end; if only things didn’t pan out well for them, that was.
“So, lentils?” Honeymaren didn’t wait for her to respond. She handed Elsa the spoon and positioned the pot between them.
Elsa stared at her for a long moment, not moving an inch. Finally, she sighed. Elsa leaned forward over her knees and took a small bite. She returned the spoon to Honeymaren, who decidedly did the same.
“Does Yelena know you’ve returned to the forest?”
Honeymaren refilled the spoon and held it teasingly against Elsa’s lips. “By this point... I am certain she does.”
The lentils waggled before her mouth. Elsa rolled her eyes and stubbornly accepted the bite.
“You are insufferable.” She told Honeymaren.
Honeymaren shrugged. “No more than you are for refusing to leave with us.”
Elsa frowned, shaking her head. “You know, I will never forgive myself if something happens to you.”
“Good,” Honeymaren nodded. She placed the pot at her feet and touched a finger to Elsa’s chin. “-now you can fully understand why I had to come back here, then.”
A slow smile worked its way across Elsa’s cheeks. She didn’t pull away from her touch. Elsa’s eyes began to brighten and she simply stared. The way Honeymaren was looking at her caused Elsa’s heart to flutter.
Her lips parted to respond as a powerful crack came barreling out from the forest.
Bright flashes, like lightning, spiralled around them. Thunder clapped loudly as smoke traveled in; billowing thick and dark amongst the evening air. Honeymaren and Elsa were overtaken by the haze. In unison, they leapt to their feet- Elsa’s palms awashed in magic, and Honeymaren with her staff extended in her reach.
The smoke continued to grow, stealing their sight.
“How sweet this is…”
A low voice sang into the clearing. Elsa’s head whipped over her shoulder, trying to decipher from where it had come.
“This reunion has been a long time coming.” The mysterious words continued. “How lovely it is to be seeing you again, Elsa of Ahtohallan.”
At the end of her first full day without Kristoff at her side, Anna laid awake in bed. With the window open, she listened to the waves lap against the shore. Crickets hummed songs at the base of the mountains, and the lone grey owl sat perched above the fjord.
Anna rotated against the sheets, relaxing in the sounds that were carried in by the night air. She considered how peaceful this evening would be if she were her child and snuggled up in bed; calm, without a care in the world.
At the thought, Anna placed a tentative hand over her abdomen. She hadn’t the luxury of time to think about the life growing inside of her.
The funny thing was, a short day ago, Anna was completely perplexed by what was happening to her. Whether stress or sickness, she didn’t have a clue.
Now, however, since Doctor Laugen explained to her that she might be with child; Anna knew it to be true. It was as if she could feel that life, heart beating, and sharing space within her. With eyes closed, she could make out the future beginning beneath her navel.
It was strange to have this happening to her now. Yet, what was stranger was feeling the state of bliss that had come with it; all while being overrun with concerns. For Arendelle, for her sister, and for Kristoff, too- the list went on and on. Wanting to relish in the excitement of parenthood had fueled Anna’s motivation to solve the mystery. She would find out who poisoned her people, and she would punish them without caring why they had done it. Anna had never been so determined to make things right. The sheer weight of that desire had her losing sleep and making plans for her morning.
With Kai’s assistance, Anna planned to face the royal guard. She would send scouts across the North Sea, and run inspections with any ship who sailed through, or near, Arendelle’s waters.
Anna no longer felt fear in facing their culprit. No, now she was driven by the sheer force of rage; to hunt down whoever had taken the lives of the children, and she vowed to make them pay.
As the smoke cleared from view, and the night sky surrounded the camp in darkness, Elsa spun on her feet.
Honeymaren shuffled beside her. Her brown eyes pulled in a slow circle, and her hand tightened on her staff.
Out from the shadows, a figure stepped forward. Elsa adjusted her hands, and a second figure appeared. At the same time, Honeymaren’s back tucked into hers. Across from Elsa, Honeymaren faced her own dilema. One figure appeared, and then another. She fought to turn her staff wide, bordering herself between the figures and her dearest friend.
They were surrounded by long dark cloaks. Their faces shielded under thick fabric, and while Honeymaren could not see through them; she had the fearful thought that they could easily see her.
Once their numbers reached eleven, the cloaks ceased to appear. They held their stance, creating a circle around both women. They didn’t move, and they barely appeared to breathe.
When a final cloak stepped from the darkness, air caught painfully in Elsa’s throat. The blood red silk and black mask caused Elsa’s back to stiffen. Honeymaren felt the tension vibrate through her own spine. She turned beside Elsa, startled to find the red cloak moving toward her.
White gloves raised to them in warning. The fabric began to glow. Power surged beneath them, not at all dissimilar to Elsa’s own.
Thinking quickly, Elsa’s magic burst to life within her palms. The cloaks didn’t move, nor did they appear to respond in any way. The red cloak, however, continued to come closer. Their fingers waggled, and their power only grew. Hands directed at Honeymaren, then. The red cloak turned from Elsa entirely as they came to face their target.
Drawing inside herself, Elsa conjured up a blast of Nordic winds. She aimed, firing at the red cloak. Her power barreled through the distance, nearing their oddly calm foe.
But then, something unexpected happened. Elsa magic slowed. Just before impact, her powers suspended mid air, but only briefly. The red cloak braced their hands together and forced Elsa’s magic away from their chest.
The blast was sent reeling back at where it derived.
Panicked, Elsa winced. Her eyes drew closed. She heard the impact of her powers connect with something solid. Yet, that something solid was not her as it was intended. A different weight, a softer weight, had fallen against her.
Elsa’s eyes reopened wide. She had Honeymaren holding herself up by Elsa’s shoulder. Her other hand wrapped alarmingly over her own chest. Right before Elsa’s magic was cast back at her, Honeymaren had slid in between them. She’d taken the full force of Elsa’s ice powers… straight into the heart.
Chapter 13: Part One - Through This Night
Where Magic Flows
Part One: Through This Night
Her shock had barely begun to settle before Honeymaren returned to her feet. She was panting. Her heart beat erratically beneath her ribs. She decidedly ignored it while taking a staggering breath. Honeymaren pushed herself away from Elsa and redirected the hilt of her spear back at the red cloak.
“You will stay away from her.” She sharply commanded.
“Honeymaren, no- I,” Elsa’s voice faded. Emotions shifted as her eyes flickered between the figure and her friend.
“Your magic is no match against us, Elsa, and see how another has fallen victim to the Queen of Ice.” The last of their statement was directed at those surrounding them. Behind the red silk, the figure's words rang like a melody; soft and soulful. “Elsa of Arendelle has always accepted payment in the form of sacrifice… And always in exchange for their love. It appears she of Ahtohallan, now follows in suit.”
Snarling, Honeymaren drove forward with her spear. “How dare you talk about Elsa as if you know her! You know nothing!”
Laughing beneath the shadows of their veil, the figure turned their head. “Oh, but I do know Elsa; better than most, I suppose. However, a more important concern remains- does the young princess remember me?”
Gloved hands wrapped around the hooded opening of their cloak. The fabric pulled back from the figure's face, revealing a women with fair skin and golden hair. From their brown eyes, held in evening shadows, to their tall build; nothing about this woman appeared familiar. She wasn’t from Arendelle. Her melodic yet clipped accent, confirmed that much.
“I don’t know you.” Elsa stated. Her brow pinched, but only slightly.
“This does not come as a surprise to me.” The woman continued. “I remind you, you should, though…”
Elsa quickly shook her head. “No, no riddles! Tell me who you are and what you want from me.”
“Patience, young one.” Her hand raised to silence Elsa. “Do you not know it is ill mannered to make demands when you are so clearly… outnumbered?”
The woman stepped forward again, and Honeymaren stood her ground.
“I no longer have the luxury of patience!” Elsa snapped. “My friend requires help, or my magic will freeze her heart!”
Very slowly, the woman’s shoulders drew into her ears. Her hands turned to their palms. “Your foolish friend is as good as dead, then. Any stalling you continue with now will only provoke me to end her life sooner.”
Elsa’s teeth grit behind her lips. Rage surged beneath her skin. “Say your peace. Make your demands, but do not expect me to meet them.”
The woman laughed, and her voice sang with a pitch like a singing bird.
“Oh, Elsa, Elsa, Elsa… how ignorant you continue to be…”
Her two fingers raised above her head, and the woman snapped. The hoods fell from the other cloaked figures in unison. Elsa stared hard. She was standing center to what appeared to be, a female coven.
Their formation briefly parted as a thirteenth member crossed through their circle. Behind them, a hooded-captive dragged at their feet. The body was dumped before the red woman. She smiled graciously at her aid and dismissed them toward the others.
The woman then leaned down. Her smile maintained. Her dark eyes locked on Elsa, and she freed the canvas from around the body’s head.
Elsa gasped. “Kristoff!” Her voice fell to a whisper. She made moves to step forward, but Honeymaren turned her spear, holding Elsa back.
Kristoff’s eyes opened at the sound. They gave a long, fatigued roll, before he slipped out of consciousness once more.
“When will your friends and family learn to leave well enough alone? Do they not see the truth reflected in the eyes of the woman they condemn their lives for? “ The woman snickered. “It is only fair to say, I see what they cannot. I know what grows within you, child. I know what storm you fight inside.”
“Please, what do you want from me? You have my attention now!” Elsa’s hands pleaded at her side.
“Finally, Elsa of Ahtohallan learns some sense. Good girl.” The woman commended with ease.
She stepped forward once again, this time not stopping when Honeymaren extended her spear. The woman snapped her fingers. In a flash, Honeymaren’s spear had turned to dust. She was stunned, looking down at the red grit covering her hands. Seeing her distracted, the woman circled in slowly around the pair.
Honeymaren quickly shook from her shock. She slid in at Elsa’s side. Her chest drew into Elsa’s shoulder as the woman came close enough for them to fully see.
She was young; perhaps only a few years older than Elsa. Her eyes were like slow burning embers, and her cheeks freckled with ash.
“You see me now, Elsa.” Her finger brushed against Elsa’s chin. Honeymaren growled, moving in closer against her friend. “You see we are both quite similar, yes? I, too, was born with powers, but unlike you, I was ostracized for mine. Imagine a child abandoned by parents whose fear towards her outweighed their love… And so, at thirteen I was forced to leave my country behind. I sailed by ship to find work in the Western Lands, and make more for myself than I could have at home.
“Now, my first job in your country was selling fish on the streets. The men cut my hair short, making me resemble a boy. I worked for ten long hours a day- in the hot sun, and on days so cold my hands would numb. I did this for many months, but then I was finally rewarded for my service. I befriended an older woman from the Kingdom of Arendelle. She was kind, always coming to me for fish. She reminded me of the mother I would never have, and the one I might of had if I been had born here instead. Regardless, this woman found me a work placement in the castle. I would serve as a handmaiden for two young princesses there…”
She smiled slowly. The woman’s eyes sparkled with mirth.
“Yes, Elsa… if you will recall, it was I who worked for you.”
Elsa’s expression never faltered. She remained stern even when she felt Honeymaren hug tighter to her side. She was cold, but Elsa could not be certain, how cold. She didn’t know if it was her own fear, or the growing night, but Honeymaren’s cool skin reminded Elsa that they did not have much time.
“My name was Cleyomey back then,” The woman continued. “However, now I am called Cleyo. I was working for three years at the palace, and I felt I had finally found my place; my new home. But you know what happens next, don’t you, Elsa?” Cleyo nodded with a slight turn of her head. “Yes, I was terminated by the royal family at seventeen- placed on a boat, and returned to my home country.
“Not many things went right for me after that. I was lost between places for a long time, and struggling to understand why magic had cursed my life before it began. I was starving and lonely, but then I discovered myself in a place I could not have anticipated.”
Cleyo came to sit against the log in front of the dying fire. She stoked it briefly with a discarded stick before turning back to Elsa.
“You see, my people, my country; they fear magic. Even more than your parents did, I am afraid. Magic was seen as a direct act of disobedience against the gods, and more importantly; against our kings. Yet, I had found myself in a place where not everyone felt this way. While drifting, I happened upon a group of sister mages who taught me to appreciate my gifts.
“For the first time in my life I did not hate who I was, and I didn’t fear the powers I held beneath my skin. I learned to love magic, more than I ever believed possible, too. I loved magic, yes, but I was also taught how I could love more.
“Mages have much intelligence.” Cleyo smirked. Her eyes curled, and her shoulder shrugged upward. “They know how magic flows through the earth. They see how our natural elements respond to that magic, and understand the careful balance between the two sides. The mages also studied our world’s creation. They moved beyond religion, beyond talk of gods and goddesses, and look at how natural phenomenons created the bridge between magic and all things living. This is how I know of Ahtohallan. This is why I am certain it is from there in which you were gifted your magic.
There are places like Ahtohallan which exist all over the world. They live in tandem with the life around them. There are some places out there which have already been exploited. Others are still waiting to be found. Yet, regardless of their status, the sister mages seek more than exploitation. We wish to learn how these places decided which powers to gift, and to whom. Then, we will end by draining its magic. We will restore the balance in favor of those who can wield it, and only those who can truly understand.”
Hearing her silence, Elsa drew in a sharp breath. Her neck pulled straight and her eyes briefly met with Honeymaren’s.
“I cannot allow you to enter Ahtohallan.” Elsa’s response was blunt. “Even if I wanted to, the forest has lost its balance. I imagine this is due to your meddling, however it has caused the spirits to depart. I can no longer access Ahtohallan, myself. I’m afraid your plan here has failed.”
Cleyo chuckled again. Her head bobbled as it shook. “You take me for someone less clever than I am. I left the Nokk uninhibited by our influence. I see how you reach the land that calls you. So long as the Nokk stands, both you and I may access the frozen river.”
Elsa shivered as a chill drew up her spine.
Cleyo knew too much. She knew nearly everything Elsa had come to learn herself. She was dangerous, intelligent, yet still; her motives were unclear.
“It is silly to stand against the mages, Elsa. You cannot win. Tomorrow you will take me to Ahtohallan, just before the full moon rises, or else- not only will you lose your friend; but your sister shall lose her husband as well.”
The mages moved forward in unison as Cleyo’s words fell away. Elsa’s hands went up defensively, and they briefly faltered in their approach.
“What are you doing?” She demanded. “Honeymaren must be permitted to leave! She needs medical attention. I will be of no use to you if she dies!”
“Elsa, no.” Honeymaren’s hand settled at the small of Elsa’s back. “I am not leaving you here on your own!”
Their eyes met, and Honeymaren’s lowered.
“Your friend goes nowhere.” Came Cleyo’s sharp response. “You will make do with the supplies you have in your tent. If she lives, I add one more life to bargain with to my list. If she dies… it is your loss.”
It was minutes after midnight when Anna awoke with a start. The sudden knock at her door had her jumping to sit up. She gasped for air with a hand against her chest.
“Your majesty,” Her door opened.
Kai stood in the archway. His hands tucked behind his back. The light from the hall created a halo around his large form. Seeing it, Anna released a sigh and spun against her sheets.
“I regret to inform you that there has been a disturbance in the Kingdom. You must wake at once.”
“A disturbance?” Anna leapt from the bed, ignoring her disheveled appearance. “What kind of disturbance?”
Kai entered and pulled Anna’s robe from its hook. He placed it over her shoulders, his eyes following her skeptically.
“Ships have entered our waterways, ma’am. A dozen of them; they have sailed in from international seas.”
“Ships?” Anna questioned. Her head turned to the side.
Quickly, she hurried to her balcony and threw back the doors. With her hands wrapped tight around the banister, she looked out over the fjord. In the light of the near full moon, twelve white sails reflected off the water. Ships surround the far banks and blocked access to the estuary. Against the tide, they moved throughout Arendelle waterways; both silent and slow.
“Who are they?” Anna inquired, feeling Kai step in at her back.
“We are attempting to learn that now, your majesty. In the meantime, it is imperative that we relocate to the meeting hall with the Royal Guard.”
Anna took one last glance at the overrun fjord. Her heart beat fearfully, and she sighed.
“Give me two minutes.” She requested.
Kai bowed. He left her room at once, and waited for Anna just beyond the door.
Honeymaren and Elsa were directed into to her goahti. She had Honeymaren tucked safely into her side, and her arm wrapped tight around her waist. Together, they moved beneath the tarp. Elsa turned back to find Cleyo in the doorway. Her arms were crossed and her lips curled at their ends.
“You are here until the sun rises.” She explained. “Do not expect for one minute that you can overpower us. If you try, or if you attempt to leave, your sister’s husband dies while he sleeps. Am I understood?”
Lowering her eyes, Elsa nodded.
“Good. You always were quite an obedient child, weren’t you?” Cleyo dropped the tarp behind her, her feet never making a sound as she walked away from the hut.
Elsa moved out of the anxious hostage role, and into medical expert so quickly that Honeymaren’s head began to spin. She had the lantern brightened. The extra furs were pulled from her trunk, and her bed was turned down to its sheets.
“Come here, and don’t dawdle. We have to get you warm!”
When Honeymaren didn’t move, Elsa marched from her spot. She snatched Honeymaren’s hand and dragged her to the bed, attempting to lower her down.
“Why are you fighting me?” Elsa scolded. Honeymaren remained planted on her feet. “Please, be serious! I have seen how my magic affects people before.”
“Elsa…” Honeymaren searched for her blue eyes. She took their hands together, but was quickly shook away.
“Honeymaren. Stop! Can’t you see this is exactly what I was afraid would happen!”
Elsa’s emotions wavered behind her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Honeymaren. If she did, she was afraid she’d lose control.
She whispered now, “Please, get under the covers. Get warm, and stop fighting-”
Honeymaren’s hand pressed to Elsa’s lips. She didn’t pull it away until Elsa turned to her, surprised.
Slowly, Honeymaren’s head tipped forward. “Elsa, I’m okay...”
“What?” Her voice rose, and Honeymaren caught her mouth beneath her palm once more.
“I think I’m okay.” She said again. “Your magic didn’t hurt my heart, Elsa... My heart is okay.”
Elsa shook her head, attempting to free her mouth. Honeymaren’s hand caught Elsa’s and she pulled her to the bed to sit.
“You don’t understand! My magic works slow. It is painful!” A strange noise jared in Elsa’s throat. She turned her eyes to her lap.
“Elsa, I think we would know by now if something were happening to me. See?” She lifted her braid. “-no white hair. No chills. I feel fine!”
“What?” Elsa breathed again. Her hand tugged from Honeymaren’s and replaced against her forehead.
She was warm. Her tan complexion remained. Honeymaren appeared as she always did. Elsa watched her lips curl upwards, and all at once, the emotions she’d been holding back came flooding to the surface.
“What were you thinking?” Tears sprang to her cheeks. Elsa pushed roughly against Honeymaren’s shoulder before folding her arms protectively over her waist. “Are you crazy? Do you have a death wish or something? Are you always this reckless?”
Her fingers swept across Elsa’s face, and Honeymaren brushed the fallen tears from her red cheeks. “I didn’t know what was happening. I saw the blast coming back at you, and I couldn’t just stand there and watch you be hurt! You’ve already experienced so much in your life, Elsa. You tell me about the sacrifices, the pain, and how you’ve tried to overcome it all! You didn’t deserve this on top of it...”
“But you could have died! You still could! How can I move forward from this if I lost you as well?” Elsa drew back from Honeymaren. Her knees tucked against her chest.
Elsa’s breathing was shallow. Her eyes, wild. She was embarrassed by her tears, and by Honeymaren’s proximity. She wanted space; space to deal with her thoughts, but they’d been trapped inside together.
Elsa’s face buried between her legs, and she fought desperately for air.
“Hey, woah!” Honeymaren’s hand soothed over Elsa’s shoulders. “Take it easy. You've got this. Slow, deep breaths…”
“I can’t!” Elsa panicked. “I have to- we have to get out of here! I have to rescue Kristoff and get back to Arendelle. We can’t just wait in here until morning comes!”
Pushing her legs flat, Honeymaren pinched Elsa’s chin. She drew her eyes from her lap and softly smiled. “One step at a time, okay? You’re worrying yourself sick! We will figure this out together, but you have to take care of yourself first.”
“How can you say that? I should be taking care of you !” Elsa shook her head from Honeymaren’s hold. “You came back for me and you shouldn’t have! Now this, and I-” Suddenly, she froze. Her eyes turned wide and her head snapped to attention. “Kiss me- you have to kiss me!”
“Wait, what?” Honeymaren balked.
Elsa leaned toward her. Honeymaren braced a hand against her chest and held Elsa effectively away from her lips.
“It’s the only way!” Elsa continued. “Don’t think about it. You have to do it. It’s the only way to stop my powers from hurting you!”
Honeymaren was forced to stop her advances once more. “Elsa, I’m not going to do that…”
“Why not? Only true love can thaw a frozen heart! Please, we have to try! It’s the only way to guarantee that my magic won’t affect you.”
“This is silly…” Honeymaren stood. Her arms drew tight around her waist. “A true love's kiss isn’t going to save me, because I don’t need saving!”
Elsa shook her head. “But it doesn’t make any sense! Why wouldn’t it? My own sister was powerless against my magic!”
Shrugging, Honeymaren’s lips pressed flat. Her eyes drew to the side. “I don’t know. Perhaps because the attack was meant for you, it didn’t affect me?”
Elsa frowned and rose onto her knees. “It doesn’t work that way! Magic is magic, no matter what it’s intention is. But listen to me, please! Anna said a kiss should have worked if the two people care about each other enough to show their true feelings!”
Lines creased along Honeymaren’s forehead. Her eyes lowered sternly. “It’s not going to happen, Elsa! Forget about it. It’s not right!”
“Why?” Her expression darkened. “I thought you liked me in that way? Isn’t this exactly what we were fighting about three days ago now?”
Honeymaren sighed. Her cheeks turned pink. “Elsa, do you know how long before tonight I have thought about just that; about kissing you? Months! It has been months, but I am not going to do it like this! If I let you kiss me out of desperation- to fix something you weren’t responsible for in the first place… it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn't be right! You were only just beginning to understand your feelings for me. You’re not ready for that step yet, and I won’t force you into it.”
“This is my decision!” Elsa defended harshly. She stood in front of Honeymaren, angry and with mused hair. “It’s not for you to say when I am ready for the next step. Only I can tell you that!”
Her tears returned, swelling below the lids of her eyes and spilling out onto her cheeks. Honeymaren hated seeing her like this. Elsa was always so regal; so composed. It was heartbreaking to witness, but Honeymaren also felt privileged to be allowed to see this vulnerable side of her.
Without a second thought, she took Elsa in her arms. Honeymaren’s hands settled at her back. She held her tight, willing Elsa to relax in her hold. When that didn’t work and her tears persisted; Honeymaren directed Elsa to the bed. Together, she laid them down over the soft quilt. Her legs curled upward, and Elsa cocooned herself into Honeyumaren’s chest.
“Looks like it’s your night to be coddled…” Honeymaren teased her at a whisper.
Elsa’s head drew up from her chest. “You find this funny?”
“It’s kind of funny.” Her nose scrunched, but Elsa continued to glare. “Listen…” Honeymaren encouraged her. She placed a hand against Elsa’s head and directed her ear down over her ribs. “My heart sounds fine, doesn’t it? And my skin is warm. There is no indication that your magic has hurt me, or that I am freezing to death...”
Angered, Elsa attempted to free herself from Honeymaren’s hold.
Honeymaren trapped her there. Her arms tightened around Elsa’s waist and she pulled her back down against her.
Once Elsa begrudgingly settled, Honeymaren quietly laughed. “If it makes you feel better, I will let you kiss me in the morning.”
“You are terrible! Do you know that?” Elsa cried, but did not move.
Shaking her head, her laughter continued. “I know I am stubborn, and a little bit reckless, but I also know that I love you, Elsa of Arendelle. Now, get some rest. Put your worries aside. Together we will figure out how to stop this disaster, and we will return the forest as it once was.”
Elsa had gone siff in her arms upon hearing Honeymaren’s confession. She should have felt panicked, or even a little scared. However, instead Elsa felt a burst of warmth swirl around her chest. Honeymaren loved her, and that suddenly seem more magical than her powers ever could be.
She replaced her head against Honeymaren’s heart. Elsa nuzzled softly into the fabric of her shirt, listening to the steady beat beneath her ribs. Her own arm clung to Honeymaren’s waist. She drew her knees up, and curled onto her side.
“Thank you,” Elsa whispered. “-for loving me.”
Chapter 14: Part Two - Through This Night
Where Magic Flows
Part Two: Through This Night
Warm in each others arms, time moved slowly. Elsa’s ears trained to the steady beat of Honeymaren’s heart as it clenched beneath her ribs. She was ready to react if anything happened; not that she was certain it would anymore. Too much time had gone by since her magic first touched Honeymaren’s heart. Now, only confusion kept Elsa’s senses alert. How this happened in the first place; how Honeymaren survived it- it didn’t make sense.
Feeling Elsa's muscles tensing once again, Honeymaren knew the woman had lost to her mind. While she had relaxed in her arms, a part of Elsa refused to settle. Instead of prying, Honeymaren was content to hold her tighter. She said nothing. She did nothing, while Elsa mulled over her thoughts. Yet, only silence had filtered between them for a long while. Despite all the worry and uncertainty, their simple shared warmth was enough to carry them through the night.
“May I try something?” Elsa said, breaking their hold. She rolled to face Honeymaren and drew her head further onto their shared pillow.
“You’re not going to try and kiss me again, are you?”
Blushing, Elsa emitted a soft giggle. “No- just, I need you to trust me.”
She held up her hand, and without prompting, Honeymaren did the same. Their palms fit together. Fingers laced. Elsa closed her eyes and felt her magic begin to flow beneath her skin.
“What are you doing?” Honeymaren asked.
Elsa’s brows pinched. “Shh…”
Her eyes remained closed, and her frown continued to deepen. Honeymaren felt Elsa’s fingers twitch uncomfortably against her own.
“What? What is it? What’s wrong?”
A tiny huff escaped her lips. Elsa slowly rose, keeping their hands braced between them. “It’s strange… I feel my powers. They’re right there... and almost stronger than I've felt them yearn before, but look-”
Her hand pulled from Honeymaren’s. Immediately, a gentle flurry began over Elsa’s own head. Yet, as their hands touched together once more, the flurry came to a swift halt.
“My powers don’t seem to work when I’m touching you…” She shook her head.
Honeymaren’s expression soon matched Elsa’s. She rose to sit beside her, eyes low and brows furrowed. Her hand fell into her lap. “If you can feel them, they must be working. Perhaps your magic doesn’t work against me, and that would be a good thing; wouldn’t it?”
Shrugging Elsa turned her eyes. “I suppose, but I don’t understand... They worked against you once before- all those months ago, when I first came to the forest. Why would they not behave in the same way now?” Her fingers lingered between them briefly before settling over Honeymaren’s. “When I am touching you, I feel strong; powerful. But my magic won’t release against your skin.”
Her other hand clenched around the furs beside them. Ice rose to the surface, coating the fine hairs in frost. Meanwhile, the fingers splayed to Honeymaren’s remained warm to the touch.
“That’s a good sign. Is it not?” Honeymaren nodded. “Your powers are not affected by me, nor am I by them.”
“I wonder…” Elsa hummed, and her eyes drifted closed.
Her hand clasped tighter around Honeymaren’s. The second raised to the air. Without the bright ignition of magic, nor the sound of release, the walls around them flash-froze. Everything from Elsa’s desk and chair, to the ground beneath the frozen bed, covered in a block of ice. All that remained unscathed was Honeymaren, herself.
When her eyes returned, they grew wide. “I hadn’t meant to do all that!”
Elsa pulled her hand from Honeymaren’s and released the room from ice. She listened intently, training her ears to the door. When nothing beyond the goahti stirred, she released a breathy sigh.
“It’s as if my powers are reacting to your touch.” Elsa shivered, whispering her words softly. “Over the years, they’ve continued to grow, but this is different; it feels different, somehow... It’s as if I am stronger by being near you, yet also more uncontrolled. What does this mean?”
She turned to Honeymaren. The panic trickled back in.
Sensing it, Honeymaren drew nearer. Her fingers brushed against Elsa’s cheek and soothed down the length of her arm.
“Only Ahtohallan knows.” She offered her a small smile.
Elsa tilted her head. “Are you suggesting I bring the mages there?”
“I think…” Honeymaren began. “-that while they know more about Ahtohallan than most, only the Fifth Spirit may access what they need. Why else would they require you to take them there? They made it no secret that they know exactly where the frozen river lies. Whatever they want, only you can get it for them. And what that means is- only you, Elsa, can protect it from them. The sooner you learn what it is they are after, the faster we can figure out a way to use that information against them.”
Elsa pulled back from her. She combed her fingers through her long strands of tangled of hair.
Sighing, Elsa allowed her hands to fall into her lap. “I have already walked myself into a trap once today. I truly don’t want to back us both into another one so soon after…”
“You said it yourself.” Honeymaren explained. “We’re already in their trap. Our goal now should be, getting ourselves out of it. Whether that means escaping to regroup, or ending it once and for all; we can’t do that until we understand our enemy better than they understand us. We need to even out the battlefield. Make ourselves strong in both knowledge and tactic.”
“And how do you suggest we do that?” Elsa arched her brow. Her curiosity peaked.
“How do the hunted become the huntsman?” Honeymaren asked, and Elsa’s face lowered into a frown. “-by learning the environment better than their assailant, and by blending into the scenery.”
Her shoulders raised. Honeymaren leaned forward and her lips tugged to the side.
“We know this forest better than anyone, Elsa.” She continued. “Do not allow their confidence to fool you into believing any differently.”
Their faces held mere inches apart. Elsa’s eyes subconsciously flickered downward and settled briefly on Honeymaren’s lips.
Quickly, she sat back on her hands. “May I ask you something?”
“You just did, silly.“ Honeymaren teased, yet she could tell by Elsa’s expression that she didn’t enjoy her comedy.
“Why do you think my powers didn’t work against Cleyo, yet the others flinched when I raised my hands?”
Pursing her lips, Honeymaren shrugged. “I don’t know. Perhaps Cleyo’s magic deflects yours, but the other mages don’t have the same ability?”
“If we’re going to gain the upperhand,” Elsa continued. “We have to find out what kind of resources they have, and what kind of magic we are dealing with. I need to know what Cleyo meant when she said our natural elements respond to the magic that flows through the earth. If we can understand this, I'm confident we can figure out how to overpower them.”
Suddenly frowning, Honeymaren leaned in close once more. “Did you see what Cleyo did to my staff? Snap. Poof, and it was gone… You don’t think she can do that to people, do you?” Her eyes bore wide.
Turning her attention to the sidewall, Elsa tilted her head. Hanging there were the maps that she and Anna had found aboard their parent’s ship.
“Only Ahtohallan knows…”
Honeymaren's frown deepened. “Yes, but-”
“No, listen to me!” Elsa was facing Honeymaren faster than she could blink. Her legs crossed. Her voice lowered, and she touched their foreheads together. “Whatever they did to the spirits, it affected Ahtohallan as well! I couldn’t search through the past because the balance in nature had been overthrown. This means, whatever piece of information the mages want- it's not accessible without all of the spirits united. In order to go to Ahtohallan, they will be forced to bring them back! Then, the past will be written again, and I will know what their methods were to deter the spirits. I will know what they are searching for, and how to use it against them! The timing, of course, will be a challenge, but I will know their weakness!”
Honeymaren’s head shook against Elsa. “Don’t you think they know that?” She asked. “-or at bare minimum, are counting on it? We’d be foolish to think they don’t know how Ahtohallan holds its secrets. Why else would the mages use Kristoff and I as leverage against you? They’re anticipating for you to ignore their weaknesses, because of your commitment to your family and friends...”
Elsa’s brow furrowed, tickling Honeymaren’s skin. “Only I command the spirits. Once rallied, they can be used to save both you and Kristoff.”
“And you as well.” Honeymaren bartered. “I told you, I am not leaving you alone with these people! I won’t do it.”
Pulling back, Elsa glared hard. Tight fists directed into her lap. “I cannot leave Ahtohallan without my protection. If the mages drain it’s magic, all of this will be for not.”
She growled, taking Elsa’s chin between her fingers. “When will you learn to stop fighting support when it is so freely given to you?”
Cleyo’s words flashed through Elsa’s mind. Her face fell from Honeymaren’s hold. “Why do those I care about allow themselves to be sacrificed in exchange for my love?”
Honeymaren moved onto her knees at once. Her hands caught Elsa’s cheeks, and she lifted their eyes together. “No, you beautiful, thickheaded woman, you- If you think that. If you really, truly believe that what Cleyo said is true; you are already letting them win! She was wrong, Elsa. Cleyo was counting on you to dwell on her lies! This is what she expects from you, and you have to fight it! That is not why your sister followed you into fire. That is not why she weathered storms in the North Mountain to bring you home! I didn’t come back for you tonight because I wanted to win your love, Elsa. I did it because I already had love for you in my heart! Don’t you understand? It is no different than Yelena making decisions for the tribe that are in their best interest. It’s the same as Ryder facing the fire spirit to save our huts from destruction. We don’t do these things because we want to justify our love for people, Elsa. We do them because we already have love burning deep inside our heart!”
Her words cut off with an exasperated breath.
Elsa’s stare was wide against hers. Air caught painfully in her lungs. She’d never heard Honeymaren speak so passionately before. How she described love for Elsa; it proved she had been fighting those same words for some time. Honeymaren was both so angry with her, and yet filled with adoration. The expression was startling. It was both beautiful and terrifying to witness. And just upon hearing her words; Elsa’s skin had begun to heat. Warmth surged between Honeymaren’s hands and her cheeks, and sent a ripple of static out across her face. The sensation caused Elsa’s lips to part. She forced air into her throat. She couldn’t think. Elsa couldn’t see beyond the brown eyes in front of her, and so she leaned forward to do what felt, … the next right thing.
Her lips brushed against Honeymaren’s; once and only for a second, before they fell away. Waiting a mere breath apart, both suspended there in silence. Shared air mingled between them. Hearts raced with shock as fuel, however, the magnetizing action had Elsa leaning forward once more. She closed her eyes, fingers clenched between layers of white fabric. All the while her actions remained terribly stiff. Yet despite the novice fire, her lips continued to meet Honeymaren's firmly for the first time.
The kiss had Elsa's fighting a gasp at the back of her throat. It escaped in a rush, and both women quickly separated.
“I-I’m sorry…” Elsa stammered. “You asked me not to, but I-”
Honeymaren’s hand settled over her mouth. “Stop talking,” She told her, and turned quickly to the door.
Her brows pinched and lowered. Honeymaren’s stare turned harsh.
“Do you hear that?” She continued.
Breathless and dazed, Elsa slowly moved beside her. She turned her ear, and her eyes drifted back closed.
Above their heads, and high over the roof of the goahti, leaves shifted amongst the wind. Branches creaked against the pressure. Sticks and dirt bounced together as they swirled up from the ground.
“Gale’s back…” Elsa whispered. Surprised blue eyes turned to find brown.
Honeymaren blinked. “As your power grows, theirs' weaken.” She explained.
Honeymaren’s words filled her with confusion. Her mouth tipped to respond, but Elsa was suddenly startled silent. The tarp to the goahti was thrown back, and Cleyo entered the room.
Her face was red with anger. Fists braced at her side. “What did you do?” She commanded them. “What did you do to call back the wind?”
Shaking her head, Elsa rose to meet her. “I-I don’t know!”
Cleyo reached forward for her hand, but Honeymaren halted her actions by taking Elsa’s other one.
“She’s telling the truth!” She told Cleyo. “We don’t know why the wind spirit has returned!”
“It’s too soon to unite the spirits!” Cleyo continued. “You will ruin everything I have worked so hard to plan if this power surge continues on!”
She ripped Elsa out of the hut. Honeymaren was dragged to follow, but was quickly forced back inside. Two mages had surfaced in the doorway. Their shoulders tucked together, and they created a barrier Honeymaren was all too eager to take down.
Elsa was forced to sit on the log in front of the fire. Gale, who had been circling the skies, dove down low to greet her. The wind tickled against her cheeks, but Elsa dutifully ignored her.
“Tell me what you did and how you did it!” Cleyo towered over her. “I knew better than to allow you two to conspire against me, but I will be made a fool no longer!”
She snapped and Honeymaren was brought forward. Elbows linked quickly with hers. Honeymaren fought against the hold, but the mages had her locked firmly in place. She was directed to the other side of the fire pit, and forced down onto her knees.
Cleyo snapped again. Two hands braced Elsa’s shoulders. She looked up to see two dark coats stationed behind her back. With her detained, Cleyo circled the flames. She came to stand at Honeymaren’s side.
“Don’t you touch her!” Elsa cried out.
“No, Elsa, the time for bartering is over!” Cleyo snarled behind grit teeth. “Now, we will say goodbye to your friend here, and to your sister’s spouse. Elsa of Ahtohallan, your reign has finally met its end! I eagerly pronounce, The Dawn of Mage has just begun.”
Chapter 15: Part Three - Through This Night
This chapter is dedicated to @thegeekogecko (Tumblr). Your encouragement is the reason this update exists. After hours of slaving over the edits on this chapter, I was ready to bench the whole damn thing. I feel so blessed by your Spotlight Saturday post.
Thank you, and sending you so much love,
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: Through This Night
Blood pooled in her ears. Heart, raced. Elsa’s mind dizzied, and her body grew faint. Across from her, Cleyo moved as if in slow motion. She was headed straight for Honeymaren, and all Elsa could bring herself to do was watch.
“Please!” She begged, her voice hoarse. “Don’t do this!”
However, her pleas went unanswered. Cleyo never faltered in her steps. She hadn’t appeared to even hear Elsa over her own thoughts.
At the sight, Elsa’s vision grew dark. A stormed brew and twisted deep inside of her, yet, with the mages at her back; only the humid summer heat maintained.
“Kill me if you feel you must!” Honeymaren snarled. She looked up at Cleyo; not in fear, but with determination. “But do not fool yourself into thinking it will make any difference. Soon you too shall meet your end!”
Her words turned Cleyo’s face red in anger. Balled fists drew tight at her side. Anger wasn’t the only emotion Elsa saw there. Joined with it. was pure and uncontainable rage.
Power surged to life in Cleyo’s hands, and suddenly, Elsa understood all too well. It was fire that took to Cleyo’s skin. Like a beacon in the dark night’s sky, she was the Flame Witch- sent here to extinguish the Queen of Ice and Snow.
Turning to Honeymaren, Cleyo’s ignited hands directed at her face. Elsa flailed instantly. Her throat turned dry as she tried to scream. She couldn’t turn away from the sight in front of her. She couldn’t watch either, but then her tear blinded eyes caught Honeymaren’s.
‘I love you,’ Honeymaren silently mouthed.
All Elsa could do was yell in reply. She yanked against the mages with no prevail. Their nails caught her skin, and surely drew blood, but she could no longer feel physical pain. The anguish, the fear of loss deep in her chest, numbed Elsa of all other sensations.
Suddenly though, chaos abrupt around them. A battle cry sounded across the camp. Cleyo’s eyes still fixed to Honeymaren as power built in her hands. The other mages, however, turned in a panic.
“You messed with the wrong brother!”
It was Ryder on the back of his noble steed. He barreled through the circle of mages gathered around the fire pit. His staff extended in his hand. He leapt from his reindeer and sprinted at Cleyo; his face fierce and actions, instant.
The mages at Elsa’s back released her as they moved to defend their queen. Instantly from overhead, the skies began to snow. The power which stirred beneath her skin, finally released into the air.
“Honeymaren!” Elsa shouted.
When she had her attention, Elsa fell forward onto her knees. She pressed her hand into soft dirt and beneath it, her magic surged to life. Before Honeymaren, a spiral of snow drew up from the ground. The sudden cyclone clouded Cleyo’s vision momentarily, as she cast her first ball of fire. Honeymaren dodged the attack. She rolled forward into the snow. She caught the spear made from ice as it conjured up by Elsa’s powers.
She swung deftly at the mages behind her. Ryder, in that same moment, waged a battle of his own. Elsa could afford to panic no longer. Her hands raised to her chest and she skated the dirt into a path of clear ice. Mages went sledding. Ryder fumbled, himself. Preparing to fall, he caught the collar of one of the dark cloaks, and he fell backward onto the ice. His reindeer then slipped into his legs. Both Ryder and the mage were sent sliding further apart.
Elsa’s powers had appeared to affect everyone; everyone, that was, except for Honeymaren and the mage in red.
Still across from her, Cleyo and Honeymaren were at a standoff. Neither appeared to notice the other mages had been forced away by Elsa’s magic. Two of Honeymaren’s captives lay winded at their feet. They clutched their sides as if battered, and scrambled to hide from the flames growing around them.
A ball of fire directed at Honeymaren again, and she waited this time before dodging. She allowed the heat to pass over her shoulder, before leaning into a swift jab. The hilt of her spear dug forward with precision. It braced harshly against Cleyo’s waist. She screamed out in pain, and beneath her palms; another fireball erupted.
Watching in terror, Elsa was already sprinting towards them. Her teeth grit, and her legs screamed in agony. She casted a bridge of ice over the dwindling pit of fire. She slid in at Honeymaren’s side, startling both her and Cleyo.
Elsa’s sudden appearance allowed Honeymaren to land a second lunge. Her weapon tore at Cleyo’s skin, and the mage cried out in frustration. Cleyo doubled over her knees. Eyes wide, she quickly crafted a wall of fire. Separating her and the two women, she hid herself safely behind it while she prepared for another attack.
“Get out of here!” Elsa demanded.
Honeymaren didn’t move. She glared with brown eyes, reflecting orange flames. “I’m here until we finish this!” She told her sternly.
Elsa snatched her hand, fighting to pull her away and back toward the bridge. As they touched, though, a flash of power burst from the ground beneath them. A cold wind swirled down from the night sky and draped the pair in a shield of white.
Snow poured in around the mages, thick and powerful in its assault. They scattered. Their cloaks beat against the fierce winds. The sudden storm worked to clear the area, and protect them against the mages’ cult.
Honeymaren’s eyes turned to find Elsa’s wide ones. Breathing heavily, she released their hands with a snap.
All at once, the storm above them began to slow.
“No, not yet,” Honeymaren told her. She quickly retook Elsa’s hand in her own. “We don’t worry about this yet! We keep fighting, understand?”
She closed her brown eyes.
Reeling in a deep breath, Elsa felt her powers surge with a strength that both frightened and thrilled her. She felt suddenly powerful, unstoppable, but also near-out of control.
Soon though, the storm returned. Both women were safely hidden behind a white veil of snow.
“Ryder and Kristoff!” Elsa reminded her. She tugged at Honeymaren’s hand.
She allowed Elsa to lead her back to the bridge. Yet, the attempt was moot. They’d been rendered blind. As with the mages, both women’s vision was stolen by the storm. They fought against the wind. Snow burned against their eyes. Shielding their faces, they searched through the haze, feeling as lost as it appeared they were.
“Gale!” Elsa shouted. “Gale, I need you!”
Her hand tightened around Honeymaren’s. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Elsa waited there, her storm further darkening the night. Neither moved, not until the tickle of a softer breeze caught against the skin of their faces. Elsa’s eyes reopened. Gale moved against the strength of the fifth spirit’s storm. She circled low at their feet, and rose to meet above their heads.
“Gale, we need you to lead us to Ryder- and to Kristoff!” Elsa choked against the cold air.
It stole her breath, and applied pressure to her chest. Elsa had never conjured a storm before with a chill that nearly bothered her.
Honeymaren shivered beside her. She pulled further into her summer tunic.
Gale circled the women once more before pushing them forward by their backs. They were directed to the bridge, and over the now-extinguished fire. Gale continued, her steady pressure leading them further into the storm. Honeymaren felt as if she were flying. Leaning into Gale’s wings, she was gliding over Elsa’s rink of ice. Yet, neither could see where they were going. Not even Elsa could see through her own storm, it appeared. Her own eyes were closed as they were forced down an embankment and into a shallow ravine.
“The huts!” Honeymaren turned. “They’ve taken Kristoff to the lower huts!”
Despite her revelation, though, neither were prepared for Gale’s next turn.
Elsa and Honeymaren gasped as they came to a dead and painful stop. Their chests bounced against hardwood. Hands caught at the wall of a sudden hut. Gale delivered them forcefully into the side panel of the medical tent, and now lingered beside them as if awaiting praise.
“Go find Ryder!” Elsa shouted to her. “He’s up the hill! Find him and bring him here!”
Gale circled Elsa’s cheek before turning back for the camp.
Following Gale’s departure, Honeymaren reacted first. She dragged Elsa by the hand as she searched the hut’s perimeter for its lost door. After a minute of blind probing, her fingers caught against the lining of the tarp. Honeymaren cast it open, and tugged Elsa quickly inside.
At that moment, both women were thankful the storm stayed trapped behind them. Here in the medical hut, the air was still and significantly warmer. The room itself was dark. Nearly baron, only Kristoff lay unattended on one of the cots. His hands were tied down. His feet binded together. He was still unconscious, but Elsa was running toward him anyway.
Feeling her tug, Honeymaren gasped as she was dragged fiercely behind her. They reached Kristoff with faces of worry. Neither wanted to do what they knew that they must. Slowly though, Honeymaren touched her ear to Kristoff's tunic. Beneath it, she listened to the steady beating of his heart.
“He’s alive! He’s okay!” She promised Elsa with relief in her voice.
With that revelation, both moved quickly, ready to free Kristoff from the restraints.
“I need two hands if I’m to undo these bindings…” Elsa fidgeted with the knot at his feet.
“Shh, be silent a moment.” Honeymaren whispered. She pulled her hand from Elsa’s and replaced it against her arm.
Straining her ears, Honeymaren listened for any indication the storm had slowed. Yet, nothing happened. The tarp overhead continued to beat against the hut in the intensely cold wind. Swirling with vengeance, the blizzard maintained. Its ambush had trapped the stolen campground in a thick squall of white.
“What is happening here?” Elsa asked her, both hands now tugging the rope loose.
She moved to free Kristoff’s wrists. Working fast, Elsa froze the restraints and shattered them into dust.
“Happening how?” Honeymaren brought her eyes to Elsa’s. “Happening with the mages? Or Happening here, with us?”
“With us! With this power; this surge! Can’t you tell, Honeymaren? I am not in control of this storm!” Elsa panicked, terror building beneath her skin.
“No, you’re not…” Honeymaren’s lip wedged between her teeth. “You’re not… because I think I am...”
“What?” Startled, Elsa dropped the final rope.
“I don’t know how to explain it!” Honeymaren’s free hand raised in surrender. Her eyes turned shyly toward the wall. “When I took your hand before, when the storm started; I was thinking about what I had told you earlier… I was thinking about escaping into the forest, and finding somewhere for us to hide! But then, I took your hand. The storm started and we were lost in the squall. That was exactly what I wanted for us, don’t you get it? I wanted for us to blend in! The huntsman, not the hunted, remember?”
Elsa stared hard as she shook her head. “None of that makes sense!” She told her. “Never before has anyone other than me had control over my powers!”
“Don’t think about that now! We can’t afford to.” She nudged her head towards Kristoff in reminder. “Let’s focus on getting both him and Ryder out of here, and then we can worry about how to handle the mage.”
Stifling a huff, Elsa returned her attention to Kristoff. He was free from the restraints, but had remained unconscious.
“We’ll have to carry him.” Honeymaren spun to examine the room. “Maybe we can find something to leverage him with. Look for a board or pelt; something sturdy we can pull him on…”
The two women moved in unison. They headed across the hut to begin searching through the shelves. However, as their backs turned, they were both startled into a panic with the arrival of someone new.
“Woah! Woah! Woah!” The person shouted.
They spun, eyes wide, as Ryder was thrown through the door.
Gale swirled into the hut behind him. She spiralled up Elsa’s leg and into her soft hair.
“Thank you, Gale.” She smiled, leaning into her touch. Her eyes briefly closed in greeting. “Don’t go too far. I may need you again soon.”
Gale then lingered for a moment before retreating from the hut. Ryder was in the dirt on his hands and knees. He looked up at both women, his eyes wide and breathing, labored.
“It’s uh, a real howeler out there…” He returned quickly to his feet. “I assume this all your doing?” Ryder asked as he pointed to Elsa.
“Yes.” She answered quickly. “I needed to distract the mages.”
He hummed. Ryder’s head tilted to the side. “Is that what those were? Why were they attacking Honeymaren? Are they the ones who have been messing with the spirits?”
“No, no questions.” Honeymaren growled. “Not until you answer mine- what the hell are you doing here? Why did you follow me back?”
Glaring, Ryder crossed his arms. “Really… you’re going to ask me that? When we got to the palace, which is super amazing by the way, and you were gone... I decided to come back before Yelena could force me to stay! You can be such a pain sometimes, you know?”
“Me?” Honeymaren defended with a short breath. “You’re the one who tracked all the way back here on a burned foot! Those mages could have killed you!”
“Enough!” Elsa quickly silenced them. “We don’t have time for your arguments! And really?” Her eyes sharply turned to Honeymaren. “Certainly, you are one to talk! How’s that concussion treating you, hmm?”
Arching her brow, Elsa shook her head. There was anger present on her face, but also the subtle flicker of humor.
“Regardless, Ryder now that you’re here, we’re going to need your help.” Elsa motioned for him to follow.
When they turned, his gaze rose to the hand which his sister had left braced almost affectionately under Elsa’s arm. His eyes widened. He opened his mouth to comment, but Honeymaren quickly shot him a look.
Sensing the precariousness of the situation, Ryder’s lips snapped closed. He followed Elsa to Kristoff’s bedside and eyed the man with a frown.
“What happened to him? What was he doing all the way up here?”
Elsa sadly shrugged. “We’re not exactly certain. He must have been headed to Northuldra when the mages found him… He was alone, but I need to get him back to Arendelle and to the medic there. Can you do that for me please?”
Nearly begging, she looked to Ryder. Blue eyes turned beneath pinched brows.
“Sure.” Ryder nodded. “I remember the way, but the storm-”
Elsa shook her head. “Gale will lead you out of the storm. She’ll bring you to the river. It’s faster to Arendelle by boat. If you use one of the canoes there, the Nokk will take care of the rest.”
“But the nokk?” Ryder frowned.
“You don’t need to worry about him.” Elsa promised. “He is still on our side and I plan for him to stay that way.”
Ryder seemed to contemplate her plan. His face continued to darken and his shoulders shrugged into his ears. “What of the mages? There were so many of them. They overpowered you both before…”
It was Honeymaren who responded next. She stepped forward, and with her free hand; she took Ryder’s shoulder in her hold.
“Don’t worry about the mages. Elsa and I have it covered. They had caught us off guard before, but they won’t do it again.”
“Speaking of…” Ryder pulled from Honeymaren. His hand dug into his coat pocket. He retracted a red amulet fastened by a gold chain, and held it between them for both women to see.
Even in the dark hut, the gem at the center of the halo appeared to glow. It’s blood red color was haunting. The chain was thick, signifying a decent weight, and curious; Elsa began to reach forward. She took the amulet in her hand. Dangling the gem in front of her face, she reached forward and stroked the surface.
Even before she’d touched it, Elsa could feel something was off. There was an energy to the amulet; a life force... And now upon stroking it, she understood all too well. Her mind dizzied instantly. The amulet crashed to the floor. Elsa fell forward onto her hands and knees, and felt as if the air punched forcefully from her lungs.
“Elsa?” Honeymaren worried. She crouched beside her, hand soothing across her back.
“Are you okay?” Ryder asked. He leaned down and his face neared close to theirs.
Elsa shook her head . She pulled herself to stand. “I’m fine…” Her eyes reopened. “My powers- the magic… it can’t handle whatever that was.”
Straining her ears once more, Honeymaren listened to the storm. There was no indication it had slowed, but something felt different now; even inside of herself. The amulet had stirred Elsa’s magic. She could sense that beneath her hand where they touched.
“Take it away.” She told Ryder. “Bring it back to Arendelle, and send for the elders and Yelena once you get there.”
“You have to hurry now.” Honeymaren continued. “There’s no more time left to waste!”
“Okay,” Ryder sprinted to Krisoff’s side. He fumbled briefly before taking the large man over his shoulder.
Honeymaren and Elsa hurried to the door. Outside the confines of the hut, Elsa’s storm began to dissipate. The walls of white were failing. The blizzard slowed. The amulet had affected Elsa’s powers, and soon neither the squall nor the night would aid in their protection.
Ryder moved passed them on his way outside the hut. There, his reindeer awaited him. Gale traveled in against its feet.
“Gale, good…” Elsa smiled. “I need you to lead Ryder out of the forest! Take him to the river and show him the way. Nokk will take over from there.”
Gale responded by picking up speed. She barreled eagerly over their heads, scattering the snow as it fell to the ground.
With an expression burdened by sadness, Elsa turned to Honeymaren. Her fingers traveled the length of her arms, and Elsa took their hands together.
“I would like for you to go with them.” Their eyes met in the declining darkness.
Sighing, Honeymaren leaned forward. Her head touched to Elsa’s before turning to each side. “When will you learn, Elsa?” Honeymaren’s hands raised to cup her cheeks. “I am not leaving you here alone. I am not leaving you ever, understand? I love you, and even though you are as stubborn and as reckless as I am; this is exactly where I want and need to be! So, I’m not going anywhere, okay? I am staying.”
Honeymaren could feel her frown. Tears pooled in Elsa’s eyes, but she dared not let them fall.
“I know what it feels like to almost lose you now… please don’t make me go through that again…”
Brushing her thumbs beneath her eyes, Honeymaren smiled. “You’re not going to lose me, Elsa. You have me! You always have. Now, we fight this evil together, and we end it- once and for all.”
Frowning, Elsa closed her eyes. She reeled in a deep breath.
Ryder cleared his throat, and broke their moment. His cheeks burned with an embarrassed red.
They turned to him. Kristoff stationed on the front of the reindeer, and Ryder sat with the reins in his hands.
“Well, I’m off…” He shrugged. His eyes pulled toward the sky.
Honeymaren dragged Elsa to his side. Her hand rested on Ryder’s knee, and she offered him a small smile. “Thank you- for coming back here, and especially for saving me.”
“Just… don’t make a habit of it, okay?” Ryder smirked. “I may not act like it sometimes, but I kind of like you.”
“Go, quickly now.” Elsa’s hand joined nervously beside Honeymaren’s. “The storm is fading, and before it releases, you need to create some distance between you and the mages.”
“Alrighty. I’ve got this!” He promised. He offered both women a quick nod.
Their hands pulled from his knee.
“Gale will show you the way…” Elsa reminded him. “Follow her to the river. It will take you back to Arendelle.”
Ryder choked up on the reins. He leaned forward over the deer before sparing them one final glance. When he turned back over the deer's head, his arms raised and they lunged forward. Within feet, Ryder was swallowed into the fading wall of snow. Honeymaren and Elsa watched him disappear, both sighing before they turned back to each other.
Placing her hand in Elsa’s, Honeymaren raised them in display. “Now, we face Cleyo.”
Elsa nodded sadly in agreement. “We face Cleyo.”
Honeymaren moved to step forward, but Elsa held her still. She turned, finding her standing there. Elsa’s face worried behind low eyes. Her attention fixed at the ground and her hand twitched in their hold.
“My powers…” She whispered. “The amulet…”
Honeymaren shook her head. She stepped toward her, pulling Elsa’s eyes back to her own. “The effects will fade. I-I felt what happened to you, too, but I can also sense that the magic is still alive inside of you. It didn’t go anyway… it just… scattered.”
Her lips drew to the side. The blue in Elsa’s eyes darkened. “...like before, when I was at the river. When I saved you and my powers failed… not gone, but… scattered .”
Elsa wasn’t certain what to make of that information. She didn’t know if she was entirely comfortable with the thought that the mages had rendered a weakness against her. On top of that, she had Honeymaren to be concerned with now. There was something between them, stirring up her magic, and it had Elsa’s powers influxed.
Heading into battle against a cult of mages with limited magic, it was reckless. They’d already been overpowered by them once. However, they were out of other options. Elsa could not allow their terror to continue. The forest, her family; they were all more important than her own fate.
“We face Cleyo.” Elsa said again.
The next time they stepped forward, it was Elsa who took the lead. Driven by memory, she cut through the fading storm; watching as the snow dissolved. The morning sun made its first appearance beneath the horizon. With it, the forest and its trees steadily began to brighten.
Elsa led them back to the fire pit. With Honeymaren’s hand still in hers, she straightened her spine.
“Cleyo!” She shouted. Her voice echoed over the storm. It barreled across the clearing, down into the valley, and out toward the Dark Sea.
“You misjudged us! You misjudged me, and now; you can no longer win! It is time for you to surrender Northuldra. Free the spirits, and give my people back their land!”
Turning in a slow circle, Elsa watched for movement beyond the storm’s fog. The squall faded to a flurry, and not a single mage appeared in sight.
“Where did they go?” Honeymaren whispered to her. “Did the storm scare them off?”
Frowning, Elsa bit her lip. “I wouldn’t be too certain of that.”
Beyond the clearing, laughter cut through the dawn.
Their heads whipped around. Both Honeymaren and Elsa watched as Cleyo descended from behind the trees. She walked toward them without fear in her eyes. Her confidence maintained, and despite all that had happened to her and the mages; Cleyo’s face told tale of a victory- a victory she had yet to win.
“Dear girl…” Came her melodic tone. “I may have misjudged the strength of your power… but it is still I who holds the upper hand. I anticipated you might defend the lives of your friends, and my captives, but do you really believe me so ill-prepared?”
Elsa’s head slightly tilted. She watched Honeymaren extend the ice spear in her hold. It was a silent reminder to Cleyo of its brute force, and a wordless threat that she’d happily take her on again.
Cleyo stopped a careful distance away from them. Her hands held suspiciously at her back.
“You will still take me to Ahtohallan.” She continued. “I’m afraid your small victory changes nothing.”
Her teeth grit behind thin pressed lips. Elsa fought to hold back her powers. “I will be taking you nowhere! Your seige is finished, Cleyo! I’m through with your tricks, and with your meddling. You said you were affected by my parent’s decision to close the gates, but you have closed yourself off because of it. You could have had friends here; people who understood. Yet, now you can have nothing from us, and your war is over! Now leave, before I have the spirits turn you away.”
Cleyo hummed and turned her head. “I can understand having no concern for your own life… but what of your sister’s? What of Arendelle; and the peoples’ whose lives you once sat in command of? Would you subject them to enemy forces? Would you allow your homeland to be cut off from their supplies as they surrender to a new king?”
Growling Honeymaren stepped in front of Elsa. “You speak because she allows you to; not because she doesn’t have the power to stop you if she wished it.”
“Honeymaren, please.” Elsa’s hand came to rest against her shoulder. Her eyes raised sternly to Cleyo’s. “What about my sister? What is happening in Arendelle?”
Crossing away from them, Cleyo came to stand at the edge of the frozen fire pit. With her hands braced in front of her, flames roared to life amongst the wet earth. The three watched as the ground thawed and the fire pulled back to new heights.
“As we speak, your majesty, two separate armies have taken siege over Arendelle’s fjord. They act on my command, and no one else's. We have watched you for over three years now. We know Arendelle’s numbers, and we have come prepared. And so, Elsa, you will take me to Ahtohallan. You will show me the frozen river, and I will finally have what is rightfully mine.”
Where Magic Flows
Part One: Fire and Ice
As the sun ascended over the horizon, the Dark Sea washed in light. Waves reflected rays of orange and yellow. The white crest of its bend curled to new heights before it buried beneath the sea.
"Freeze it." Cleyo commanded.
Her voice had traveled close enough to Elsa's ear to draw a shiver down her spine. It caused her fingers to clench. Heat spread over her neck and up behind her ear.
This journey would change them all, but the source of Elsa's panic was that she didn't know how.
There were five of them in total, standing amongst the shore. Cleyo had two mages at her back, and Elsa stood with Honeymaren close to her side. Despite her growing concerns, Elsa was thankful for their low numbers. There was something amicable in Cleyo's decision to leave behind her coven. Elsa considered she did not want to share the secret of Ahtohallan with everyone. Even Elsa herself understood that all too well.
It was that, or Cleyo was confident in her victory. Perhaps she left the mages behind knowing full-well that she was going to win. Elsa would die before she let that happen, though. The only win she sought was for her people. She dared not consider Cleyo's confidence long enough to dwell.
"Answer me this first," Elsa turned to Cleyo. "What are you hoping will happen once we get there?"
Snarling, she shook her head. "I've told you- Ahtohallan owes me answers; answers about the past. That is all the information you shall be receiving from me, now move out!"
Yet, Elsa remained standing. She felt Honeymaren fidget beside her.
"What will you do with us once you've gotten what you need? How do I know you won't hurt my sister and leave Arendelle overrun?"
Cleyo drew in a short breath. Elsa could hear the click of her teeth behind her pursed lips.
"Killing anyone is not in my plans, Elsa. However, know that I have killed before, and I will do it again if you try anything once we are out there. The fate of your family and friends rest on your shoulders alone. I advise you to keep that in mind before opening your mouth from now on."
Cleyo knew Elsa was unwilling to risk the lives of those she loved. Her saying what she did proved that. Her point was moot, but the reminder still ached. It was always up to the sisters' of Arendelle's to save the world and everyone in it.
"It won't be easy," Elsa explained as she turned back to the Dark Sea. "I cannot guarantee anyone's safety once we've left the shore."
Without waiting for their reply, Elsa stepped back. Her hands extended at her chest, and she felt her powers rising to the surface. Any doubt that they might fail vanished when Honeymaren's hand caught against her back. Suddenly her magic was expelled from her limbs, and the entire sea froze with it. A thick sheet of clear ice coated the waves. The entire surface was solid and unmoving.
Elsa sighed, thinking, 'My powers still work'.
"Wait!" Elsa's thoughts stilled as Cleyo attempted to step past her. "You're forgetting something…"
"The Nokk…" Cleyo growled. "Yes, please do. Settle your spirit horse so we may proceed. I expect no trouble from him, nor you."
Elsa's eyes scanned the frozen horizon. There was no movement beneath the Dark Sea. Nokk could sense the strangers' presence, and feeling threatened; he remained hidden below the ice.
Stepping forward, Elsa closed her eyes. She reeled in a deep breath. There was the secret language she shared with her spirits. Never entirely certain how it worked, Elsa felt their connection fueled by their shared silence, and her feelings. She knew that's how the spirits communicated best. Today, however, Nokk would not respond to the call.
Seeing Elsa's frustration, Honeymaren removed her hand from her back. She threaded their fingers and squeezed their palms together. There, Honeymaren could feel the power tingling beneath Elsa's skin. It was like static, and she wondered if Elsa could feel it too?
Just then, the slick ground began to shake. Nokk appeared, barreling through the ice. It shattered and shards were sent flying into the air. He hurried toward Elsa, chuffing at the newcomers as he approached. Nokk bowed in threat. His eyes raised. They scanned to Honeymaren before he drew in tight at both her and Elsa's side.
"We must let mages cross." Her hand drifted over Nokk's head. "The forest depends on it."
Nokk simply raised from his stance, but his eyes stayed stern on the mages.
Cleyo's back straightened. Both Elsa and Honeymaren glared at her warning, yet she didn't respond. She dared a step past the nokk. He growled in protest, but made no attempt to stop her. Cleyo then dared a second step, and then another...
Soon, all five of them were crossing the frozen sea. There was Honeymaren and Elsa, while Nokk separated them from the mages. Honeymaren, who stood closest to him, couldn't help but marvel at his size. Countless times prior, she'd seen the Nokk up close. Elsa took him wherever she went, but never before could Honeymaren say she truly felt she was on his side.
"This reminds me of something…" She spoke aloud for the first time since leaving camp. Honeymaren didn't care if the mages overheard. This story was more for her than it was for them.
"When I was a young girl, around six or seven," Honeymaren went on. "My brother and I explored as much of the forest as the mist would allow. By adulthood, we knew every inch of the perimeter, including the shores of the Dark Sea. The first time we happened upon it, Ryder and I wouldn't dare further than the cliffs. We knew Nokk protected the land to the north, and we heard stories about how he took no survivors… but I was stubborn."
Elsa snorted. She hid her mouth behind an open hand. She knew better than to show weakness here, but with Honeymaren; she made it hard for Elsa not to.
"Anyway…" she lowered her eyes playfully at Elsa. "I came back to the Dark Sea at fourteen. I remember staring out at the waves, and watching the tide move further and further away from the coast. At the time, the spirits were merely a rumor for those of us who were too young to have lived with them. Some of us even believed they were merely myths the elders told to keep the youngest in line. But part of me must have believed her, though. I felt determined to be the one to awaken the spirits myself…
"I know how silly that must sound now… yet at fourteen, my mind was different. I remember waking up early to make the journey before sunrise. I stood in the darkness with my toes touching the tide, and then I walked out to sea." She felt Elsa tense beside her. Honeymaren squeezed her hand. "Who can be certain how far I made it from the beach, or what happened after that. One minute I was swimming in the middle of the ocean, and the next I was lying on my back against the rocks. To this day, I remember the chill that soaked through my clothes. I remember the pain of almost drowning, and the pressure against my chest as I glided through the waves-"
"Nokk was trying to drown you…" Elsa whispered with a slight pout.
"No…" Honeymaren shook her head. "I wasn't being forced down. I was being led back to shore. I know because the pressure on my chest never worsened. It always stayed the same."
Elsa turned to Honeymaren sharply. "Nokk saved you, then?"
With a shrug, she sighed. "Perhaps that is what happened? I couldn't see anything. I must have fallen unconscious. After that, my memories were of the rocks in my back, and the clear blue sky above my head; before I watched it fade away..."
"But the mist?" Elsa questioned, her eyes drawing low. "That doesn't make any sense?"
Honeymaren hummed as she turned to the north. "I know, but I'm only telling you what I remember."
Elsa wondered if it was possible. Had Honeymaren really gone out to sea, and if she had; did Nokk really save her? This was a strange and sudden admission from Elsa's long and trust friend. She knew Nokk had taken her parents life by instinct, but somehow he might have found it in himself to save Honeymaren's. Maybe there was more to the spirits than even Elsa understood. Perhaps Nokk could sense something inside of Honeymaren that had him bringing her back to shore.
"Is that…" Honeymaren's voice drifted off, causing Elsa's eyes to raise.
The tip of the glacier's peak was visible just above the frozen sea. They were getting closer.
"Yes," Elsa smiled. "Ahtohallan… We're not far now, but stay on your guard. The water below us grows stronger the further we draw from Northuldra."
There was silence between women as they continued across the ice. The mages in black had replaced their masks. Not even their eyes showed through the fabric. Cleyo, however, remained in only her hood. Occasionally she'd look to Elsa, as if pondering some question she dare not ask. Or perhaps Cleyo wanted her to see the fire behind her eyes.
What are they all thinking, Elsa had to wonder. Did the mages feel as she did when she first came to Ahtohallan? Could they feel the power of the glacier calling to them as it did for Elsa?
"Tell me…" Cleyo's voice cut through the cold. "What tricks will Ahtohallan have for us?"
As Elsa neared the shore, she slowed. "The glacier is unprotected. I am its only guardian, and currently, I am not a threat to you. That's not to say, however, that Ahtohallan doesn't know how to protect itself. It speaks directly to the spirits through the Earth. How Ahtohallan behaves is still a mystery to even me..."
Cleyo hummed softly, seemingly choosing to believe Elsa. Her eyes turned to the surface as the glacier before them began to grow. Its mountainous structure cut through the ground, and rose toward the blue sky. Like a cloud to the ocean, Ahtohallan hugged to the rise and fall of the Dark Sea.
"In my dreams, I never thought-" Honeymaren's whisper surfaced again before falling away.
"What?" She asked her.
Honeymaren shook her head. A single tear descended her cheek. "It's nothing… It's silly. I just- it's ice… I know you told me that, but seeing it; really seeing it... The stories about Ahtohallan go back way before either of us were born. The songs, the lullaby- I wonder how long this glacier sat before it could welcome you home?"
"There may have been others before me..." Elsa considered.
Honeymaren's eyes and voice lowered. "Did she show you?"
Blinking, Elsa shook her head.
"I can't be certain, but I believe Ahtohallan exists only for you."
Across from them, Cleyo appeared to perk up as she listened in on their conversation. She said nothing, though. Her lips remained pursed tight, yet she fell behind the group as she pondered.
Not long after, the women descended on Ahtohallan. Elsa's ears began to ring. Her heart raced into a panic, but Honeymaren's hand remained warm in her own. Like a totem, it kept Elsa grounded. With Honeymaren at her side, she knew they could face anything that came their way.
Elsa's bare feet planted on the icy shore. She stopped, looking up, and took it all in. Cleyo and the mages were doing the same. Elsa wondered if they had seen these types of places in person before, or if Ahtohallan was their first one.
When Elsa arrived here all those months ago, she felt alive; empowered. Her skin buzzed with energy. Mind, dizzied. It was thrilling, but somehow, also terrifying.
Even today, Elsa recognized the sensation. It was similar to how it always felt, being here. There was the fear of Cleyo and her plan. There was the fear Elsa held for Arendelle and her sister, yet there was also contentment. Her heart was wide open as she looked up at the mighty glacier. She'd never felt closer to it, and she couldn't say why.
Turning to Nokk, Elsa pressed her forehead to his. She thanked him silently before bidding him farewell. Nokk wouldn't go far, though, Elsa knew that. She was certain he'd remain close by. He dove back beneath the ice, leaving a splash in his wake.
"Let's go." Cleyo announced sternly.
Elsa half-expected her to take the lead. Yet, Cleyo appeared to hesitate. Perhaps, she didn't trust Elsa. Elsa certainly wouldn't blame her. Beyond the walls of the glacier, the only thing to fear was your own desire. Ahtohallan's true test was to how far a person was willing to go in order to retrieve the truth they sought.
What did Cleyo hope to learn, and would she be forced to go too far to get it?
"Ahh, ah, ah, ahh…"
Soft and melodic, the siren beckoned Elsa' home; home, and into the depths of Ahtohallan.
"Is that- is that her?" Honeymaren's eyes bore wide as she tugged against Elsa's hand. "The voice, the one that led you to Northuldra?"
"I thought you said the glacier was unguarded!" Cleyo snarled.
Elsa's shock-ridden face pulled from Honeymaren's. "You can hear it, too?"
"Of course I can hear it!" Cleyo's two mages stiffened at her side. "Can neither of you?"
They shook their heads in unison.
"There's no form to the voice." Elsa explained. "She's the heart of the river; a spirit herself, but nothing more."
Cleyo didn't respond, however her silence allowed Elsa to see that there were still some things about magic that Cleyo did not know. Ahtohallan was her domaine. She was the fifth spirit, and for now, that gave Elsa the upper-hand.
With that in mind, Elsa confidently stepped forward, and led their entrance into the foyer.
The first chamber was wide. Its high walls glistened with light, yet with each step' the walls steadily grew more narrow. Cleyo and the mages stayed strict at their backs. Their gazes lingered for long moments against the curved arches and bright hues of moving color.
"Now, we go down."
At the end of the second chamber, Elsa came to a halt. She felt Cleyo's eyes over her shoulder. They peered past her into the dark tunnel. Even Honeymaren felt skeptical. She ignored Cleyo and hugged closer to Elsa's side.
"Down?" She asked. Her lip worried between her teeth.
Elsa fought not to smile. It tugged at her cheeks anyway, and she winked. "Down..."
Taking Honeymaren's hands in her own, she led her into the darkness. Her brown eyes were wide, and she clamped down onto Elsa's sleeves. All at once, their feet began to slide.
"Woah!" Honeymaren fumbled.
Elsa held her steady. Her hands tucked against the bend of her arms. The slide beneath their feet began to slope downward, and faster, faster, and faster; the two soared across the ice.
Holding onto her tight, Honeymaren circled around Elsa. "This is amazing!" She beamed.
They faced forwards, backwards, sideways; on their way down the slope. It was like dancing. Their arms warm around each other, moving with the ice as they would to music.
Seeing Honeymaren's elation, a laugh erupt passed her lips. She realized that had this been under different circumstances, it would have been fun. To share the magic of Ahtohallan with Honeymaren; the thought sent a shiver down Elsa's spine. She'd never brought anyone here before. Yet, seeing the wide smile on Honeymaren's cheeks; Elsa began to think she ought to.
"Here's the jump!" She warned her.
Elsa directed Honeymaren to her back, releasing one of her hands. They reached the final drop before the stairs. The slope inclined, and the two were tossed up into the air. While Elsa had faith in Honeymaren to make the jump; it wasn't worth the risk...
Power raced through her veins. Magic sparked at the surface of Elsa's skin. She was alive and well, despite the mages' presence here. It was the bright side Elsa needed, and she felt her powers continue to grow.
The steps beneath them rose to meet their feet. Honeymaren gasped at the contact, but then they were off again; sliding further downward. Each column fused together. The slope continued out from the tunnel, and descended toward the cathedral chamber. Honeymaren was giggling behind her. Elsa felt her own excitement peak.
They slid to a stop against flat ground, and Honeymaren reeled in a deep breath.
She circled to face Elsa, bringing their hands together. "Can we do that again?" She asked. Her eyes twinkled in the dim light.
Behind them, the mages neared. With flames blooming to life beneath her feet, Cleyo had found a way to control their descent. They came to a halt at Elsa's back.
Her face was stern. "Do not leave my sight again."
Elsa's eyes turned. Teeth, grit, and shoulders raised. No amount of concern for Cleyo's actions would take from the moment she'd shared with her friend. Elsa wouldn't allow it. Cleyo may have frightened her before, but here; this was where Elsa belonged.
With a steady breath, she led them beneath the first arch. The final tunnel opened to a wide, dark ice chamber.
The air in Ahtohallan was still. Everything around them draped in heavy silence. The mark of the spirits had yet to show themselves, and Elsa began to wonder if they would appear at all.
Frowning, Elsa gently tugged Honeymaren forward by the hand. The darkness continued to spread. Soon, it would swallow each of them entirely from sight. Elsa sensed Ahtohallan was in debate, the newcomers having stirred its power. This was the diamond tunnel. It was a home for where moments in time would come to share their truth.
Yet, everything around them remained frozen and cold.
Honeymaren's hand slid further up Elsa's arm. There was a hint of nervousness in the action, as she clamped down tight around her bicep. However, Elsa's reaction was much different. The gesture was possessive. It was bold. It caused her to blush.
A ripple coursed through her skin, and a bright flash erupt at the center of the darkness.
Tendrils of snow lifted at their feet. Swirls of power wavered at their sides. Against the walls of ice, and in the air around them- The nokk, Bruni, Gale, and the earth giants. Elsa had seen this display many times before. However, seeing it for the first was much different. It caused the mages to linger, their eyes grew wide, and they watched Ahtohallan come to life.
Creating space from them, Elsa descended into the start of the chamber. Diamond crystals pulled from the walls, and rose to new heights. Flashes of colors birthed behind clear ice. Spirits danced in their given forms, and they disappeared into the center snowflake.
Elsa turned to Honeymaren.
Diamonds reflected in the depths of her brown eyes. Dark curls caught the purple and blue hues ignited behind the walls. As fractals of light continued to swirl around them, Honeymaren's skin sparkled with the sheen of ice. She was smiling wide. Her eyes blurred with tears that refused to fall. Mouth, agape. Honeymaren's hand was limp in hers, and to Elsa in that moment; she was breathtaking...beautiful.
Elsa's eyes turned to find the mages nearing. Her heart lurched in her chest. She brought her full attention back to Honeymaren, and bit down on her tongue.
Elsa couldn't fight it, though. Her head was leaning forward, and her lips touched to Honeymaren's ear.
Shielded by brown curls, Elsa whispered. "I love you, too."
As she drew back, Elsa pulled her hand from Honeymaren's. She came to stand at the center of the chamber, and a bright flash of light beamed up from the floor. It shot into the face of the ceiling, and circled in a half spear around them.
Cleyo hurried to Honeymaren's side. Her face displayed less anger than it did wonder.
All five heads raised to watch as Ahtohallan finally revealed its truth.
I will be making alterations on the way that Ahtohallan shows the past to Elsa (Chapter 17). It is more fluid for me to use the 'dome' setting for story telling, than it is to try and navigate through ice sculptures. Just a friendly heads-up.
Chapter 17: Part Two - Fire and Ice
Centered Italicized font = Ahtohallan (Past Memory)
Standard font & Left-Set = Present Moment
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Where Magic Flows
- M. Lauren
Part Two: Fire and Ice
"Elsa," She extended her bare hand.
Sitting beside her at the fire pit, Honeymaren accepted the gesture. Cold fingers braced against warm skin. Honeymaren shivered, but she didn't pull away.
"It's lovely to meet you…" Elsa grinned before turning to the calf snuggled against her leg.
Caught beneath the branch and the trunk of the tree, Honeymaren groaned. Her pant leg snagged against the bark. She dangled helplessly above the ground, and Elsa stared up at her; muffling her giggles behind an open hand.
The sun was setting over Northuldra. Honeymaren left her hut. The wind lifted the braid from off her back as she glanced downhill toward the fire-pit. There, Elsa was seated on a log surrounded by young children. She was regaling them with stories, using her powers to bring them to life. Each pair of eyes held wide in astonishment. Honeymaren could hear their 'ohs' and 'ahs' every time small drifts of snow took shape into something new.
Feeling eyes on her, Elsa looked up. Her cheeks turned pink when she caught Honeymaren staring. The two shared a brief smile, and both quickly turned away.
Elsa opened her eyes in the morning to find a basket placed at the foot of her bed. Curious, she raised from the sheets, surprised to find its contents filled with assorted fruits.
She leaned down. Taking a fresh plum in her hand, Elsa stepped from her bed. Magic swirled over her nightgown, and transformed it into her ethereal white dress. When she left the hut, Honeymaren ducked in hiding behind a tree.
Elsa took the fruit between her teeth. Her lips closed over the soft skin. Honeymaren turned her head, blushing, and smiled to herself.
"Plums…" She whispered, nodding slowly. "Got it."
"You are out of your mind!" Honeymaren shouted.
"What? Why?" Ryder gawked.
"Elsa is the Fifth Spirit! She walks like a goddess amongst our people! Why would she want to wed a Northuldra like us?"
Elsa smiled warmly at Ryder. Her hand rested above his against the cot. She laughed, shaking her head, and Ryder's eyes glowed as he beamed back at her.
Beyond the entryway, Honeymaren's hand clasped over her heart. Her forehead wrinkled. Brows, tucked, and her lips curled downward. Slowly, she began backing away from the fire.
"Perhaps I was wrong… Maybe you will want to wed a Northuldra like him, afterall…"
Adorned in the same dress her mother had worn on her wedding day, Anna stood facing Kristoff. She smiled at him. Their fingers laced together. Toes, touched.
"True love," she whispered. "I used to believe I had none. Now, I see my life is filled with it."
Anna turned briefly. Her blue eyes met her sister's and she winked. Elsa returned the sentiment with a smile of her own.
A sword unsheathed from its scabbard. Anna's head snapped to find Elsa laying amongst the frozen fjord. A blade extended over her head, and she didn't move.
Sprinting to her side, Anna shouted, "No!"
Her skin layered in ice. Anna's hair turned white, and her eyes held wide with passion. As the edge of the sword came down, it shattered against her hand.
"This child is special." Iduna whispered to her husband. She took his hand and placed it over her swollen belly. "I know it sounds crazy, but I can feel it... This baby will change the world."
The cape at her back lengthened into the air. Diamonds pulled from the walls of Ahtohallan. They fell to the hem of the white fabric, and froze into its icy thread.
Elsa spun in a full circle, with her hands clasped over her heart. "I am found!" She cried.
A solid blast of magic suspended mid air. Washing Cleyo in its vibrant glow, Elsa's powers froze before her face. She sneered. Cleyo's hands braced at her chest. With a push, she set the magic reeling back at Elsa, while at the same time; Honeymaren slid in front of her.
As the power connected with her chest, Honeymaren's skin ignited in bright white flash. It burst from her, creating a shield of light. The magic in her chest absorbed, and was transported back into the earth beneath her feet.
Ahtohallan rumbled, shaking the floors on which they stood. The memory of Honeymaren's sacrifice appeared to have roused the glacier from its frozen state.
"How does Ahtohallan decide what to show you? Is there no controlling it?" Cleyo's voice was sharp as it surfaced over Elsa's shoulder.
She turned to her, pulling her eyes from the memories dancing amongst the dome. "Ahtohallan responds to me, what I feel; my needs and my desires. Ahtohallan is attuned to me, and nobody else."
As Elsa snarled and turned her back on Cleyo, the imagery above them began to shift. Memories swirled around the dome. The spiral motion had Elsa feeling faint, but finally they settled.
The blue hue of light bringing Ahtohallan to life, suddenly darkened to navy.
"But I should be excited!" Anna cried. "-and I can't because the children in Arendelle are sick, and Elsa can't hear my call! There's something wrong, can't you see it? We can't have a baby right now!"
Elsa's eyes drove wide. Air caught painfully in her lungs. Honeymaren's hand slipped into hers, and she soothed Elsa from the shock.
"Why don't I go?" Kristoff took Anna's hands in his. "I know how much you need her here. I will find out what's going on in Northuldra, and see to it that Elsa makes it back to us right away."
"Mercury?" Doctor Laugen handed Anna a small vial from his pocket. Squinting, she lowered her eyes to the silver liquid behind the glass and frowned.
"It was discovered along the shore by one of our merchants, your majesty." Mattias explained. "It appears to have spread two kilometers south of the town."
Anna blinked. She turned to Doctor Laugen. "You believe this to be the culprit behind the illness? It looks harmless!"
A half dozen ships anchored in the entry to the estuary. The North Sea was a long mile behind them. Waves carried the large shipping vessels inland with the tide.
"We've emptied all the barrels, your majesty."
"Good…" Came the compliments from a person in hiding. "May Arendelle finally experience the hell they've put us through."
Footsteps were heard ascending from below deck. Out of the darkness, a man appeared. The man stood like a mountain in the doorway. He was tall, and his shoulders, wide. Dark facial hair lined his jaw, and buried beneath his nose. His tailored coat was navy, and a sash of red bore across his chest. His shoulders padded with fine yellow ribbon. Black boots pulled to his knees, and his pants were tight and grey.
"That man?" Elsa questioned. Her eyes scanned across the hilt of the dome. She could feel Honeymaren's eyes on her face, and Elsa ignored them.
She was searching through memories for that oddly familiar face. Elsa had seen that man before, but when?
Ahtohallan responded to her confusion with a quick turn of images. Elsa's eyes were held low when, finally, she could see the truth.
A blast of magic shot the crossbow from the man's hands. He dodged, and two walls of ice surrounded him. Scrambling, he tried to escape. A third barrier conjured beneath his feet. At speed, it was cast toward him. He ran until his back connected with a set of frozen doors, and the man found himself entrapped.
The barrier continued nearer. It braced against his chest, and the combined pressure shattered the walls of ice at his rear. Shards were sent flying into the air. A rush of cold wind entered the ice palace. The man fell back into the railing, and his eyes grew wide as he witnessed the lethal height of the balcony from over his shoulder.
Elsa's frowned at the memory. Her brows pinched beneath her hairline.
"Weselton…" She said to no one.
However, hearing her whisper, Honeyman tightened her grip on Elsa's hand.
Elsa turned again to find the images had shifted once more. The memory of the ships was now replaced by another she had never seen.
Fire surged beneath black boots. Panicked, the Duke of Weselton cried out for help. He and his two guards hurried for the barred-doorway. As their hands slammed against the bars, flames ignited along the length of its frame.
All three men instantly scrambled backwards. They collided with each other, and fell onto their rears. Huddled and frightened, they watched the flames draw nearer. The heat from their ascent tickled against the fabric of their pant legs.
Yet as quickly as the fire had appeared, it was gone. All that remained was the haze of smoke, and the scent of burning wood.
All three flitched as the bars were pulled from their hinges. A cloaked stranger, held in shadows, casted the barred-door aside and it bounced loudly against the floorboards. The stranger stepped forward. Their hands went to their hood, and they revealed their face to the men.
"Weselton…" Cleyo sneered. Her lips pulled to the side and she smirked.
"M-m-me?" The Duke's finger jammed into his chest.
"No…" Very slowly, Cleyo turned her head. "Your son."
With a snap, the Duke's eyes shot to the large man beside him. The guard stared back for a long moment before lowering his gaze. He returned to his feet, and stepped toward Cleyo.
He nodded. "I am Francis Weselton."
Cleyo's cheeks lifted as she smiled. "I am Cleyomey from the country of Russhave, and I believe you now owe me a favor."
"I will teach you about illusions- about how to trick the eyes into seeing things that aren't really there. I will show you how quartz can balance natural energy, and how tourmaline deflects it. I will provide to you the ways in which you can send the earth, and your Ice Queen, into a world of chaos and unbalance." Cleyo leaned across the table with her hands folded.
Across from her, Francis flinched; feeling the heat pouring off her skin. "Together, we will create a union between Russhave and Weselton. We will overthrow the royal family of Arendelle, and we will get our revenge!"
"No," Cleyo shook her head. "The Ice Queen is still but new to her powers. We must wait, wait until the timing suits our needs. For now, we will continue to watch in secrecy; as I have been doing in Arendelle for many years..."
"Enough!" Elsa shouted fiercely.
The memories above them froze in time. When she spun to face Cleyo, the woman did not flitch. Her arms were crossed, and her eyes lowered at the sight of Elsa's fury.
"You've been watching us. You've poisoned the fjord! You created an alliance with Weselton, and now you're trying to overthrow Arendelle. Why should I continue to show Ahtohallan's secrets to you, when you've put my sister and our peoples' lives in danger? You've threatened my family, me, the people I care most about! Why should I allow this to continue?"
Slowly, Cleyo walked away from her. With her finger, she reached out and traced its tip along the perimeter of the dome. Beneath her touch, the ice began to sizzle.
"Francis Weselton was- what would you call it… convenient... Yes, he and his father's hatred toward you and the Kingdom of Arendelle was exactly the kind of support I needed to put my plan in motion."
"Your plan…" Elsa sneered. "Revenge… If you wanted revenge against my parents, you've waited too long... They're already dead! And why waste time in Northuldra? How did stirring the spirits help you to take over Arendelle?"
"Sweet child…" She sang. Cleyo came to a halt a fair distance from Elsa before turning to face her. "Plans change... I thought I wanted revenge against your family. I believed that killing you and taking over your Kingdom would bring me joy. However, through watching you all these years, I discovered that you cause yourself more suffering than I ever could. You are your own worst enemy, Elsa, and that notion brings me much pleasure. Besides, by following the footsteps of your life- by following you to Ahtohallan; I learned I can have more than I ever imagined possible.
"My mages reported when the mist had lifted from Northuldra. They watched while you returned in your full-power. You foolishly handed your sister the throne, and so… I lied." Cleyo shrugged, and turned her back once more.
"I led Francis Weselton to believe we were moving in to takeout Arendelle. I needed the illness to provide a distraction, knowing you would never really walk away from your home... This allowed me time to rally my coven amongst the dark caves of Northuldra. Weselton and Russhave mobilized the fjord, all while we began breaking down your spirits... one finely placed crystal, at a time."
Elsa laughed. "So you've come here searching for power, then? Is what you have not enough?"
"No Elsa, powers I have… what I want to know, is why I have mine…" Fire burst beneath her palms as Cleyo drew closer to them.
Honeymaren extended her spear, and Cleyo came to a stop.
"Everything I touch burns to ash at my feet! I have slayed those I loved, and I've destroyed many cities! Show me, Elsa; show me how I came to be this way! Show me how love can breed a magic that ignites everything living in its wake!"
Elsa didn't respond. She didn't have to. Her own curiosity bested the power of Ahtohallan. Memories overhead began to spiral once more. Images swirled back to life. A spark of fear bloomed in Elsa's chest, and she shivered with anticipation.
Unfortunately, Elsa knew better than anyone that the truth was very rarely accompanied by a feeling of acceptance.
"We can't go on like this!" A woman cried. Her face, hidden by dark curls, awashed in light from the lantern.
A stern faced man slowed from his sprint. Breathless, his eyes lowered to hers and he shook his head. "Tereza, no. We must keep moving!"
He moved from her side, but Tereza remained standing.
"She's a danger to us all!" She shouted.
The hands clasped against her chest, withdrew to reveal an infant swaddled in scorched rags. The child slept calmly. However, the mother did not share in her daughter's contentment. Her body shook with fear, and Tereza held the child out for the man to take.
"No!" He frowned. "It is your secrets that have cursed our life with this evil! That child is your burden, and I will only do my part to help you both get out of here."
"Secrets?" Tereza's head shook dejectedly. "But I've done nothing- I know nothing!"
"Lies!" The man bellowed. His anger burned within him like raging flames. "I've seen what you've done to deserve this, but I've played my part in it, and now we must go!"
Tereza stiffened. Her fists tightened around the infant and she lowered to her knees. "No…" She whispered tearfully. "You are right... I'm responsible for this burden."
Shaking, Tereza placed the infant at the edge of the trail. The child never stirred as the cold Earth set into her back.
"It's my burden…" Tereza whispered again before standing. "It's my burden, and I am choosing to run from it! I don't want this responsibility! I never did!"
In one swift motion, Tereza had spun on her feet and was quickly running away. She headed through the dark forest, cutting through trees. She was out of sight before the man could stop her.
"Tereza! Wait!" He shouted after her. "You can't run from this!"
But she had.
His eyes stared in Tereza's direction until a sigh pulled passed his lips. He looked to the ground. The child in rags stirred. The man slowly approached the infant and crossed his arms with a sigh.
Blinking, the child stared up at him. Tiny flames began to dance above her ember eyes.
The man flinched, and he stepped back. He tiredly shook his head. "I'm sorry, kit, but it just can't be done..."
Turning as quickly as Tereza had, the man too, ran away. The infant then waited in the forest while the evening shadows crept in.
Hearing the whisper, the woman turned to her back. Above her, a woman with long red hair looked down at her. She was smiling sadly. Her face was flushed and mused from the bed sheets. Very tentatively, she reached out a traced her finger along Tereza's jaw.
"You must leave your husband if we are to continue seeing each other…" The woman's touch lingered, falling to the length of her neck.
Tereza sighed. Her gaze flickered. "I- I'm pregnant..." She told her lover, and quickly looked away.
"Pregnant?" The woman reeled back, taking the sheets with her. Anger etched across her fair skin, and her hands drew into fists at her side.
Sitting up, Tereza's eyes widened pleadingly. "No! Please! Don't be upset! You know my family arranged this- this marriage, this future! It's not mine!"
"This is different now…" Red hair shook against her shoulders as she turned her head. "You cannot be with me while you father that man's child!"
"I never wanted it!" Tereza defended. "I never wanted this marriage, and I never wanted his child! Please! I am the victim here, remember that! You were meant to save me from this horror… but now I am trapped in it!"
The woman was back at Tereza's side faster than she could blink. "No, you were meant to run away with me! Remember? Before the wedding, I gave you that choice, and it was you who turned it away!"
Tears pooled in Tereza's eyes. "We can run away now... together!" She told her. "We can hand the child over to the church, and move to the countryside like we always planned..."
The redhead was backing away again. "No! That is not what I want. You made your bed, and now you will lie in it. I fell in love with you- not that man, and never his child! I gave you your out, and you chose compliancy instead. You were so afraid of the unknown, Tereza, but look what the 'known' has done for you now! You would damn the infant growing inside of you to orphanhood because fear drove you to play it safe?"
Tereza's skin heated, turning vibrantly red. Feeling anxious, she began to sweat. Her eyes glazed, and she faintly tried to lift herself from the bed.
Beneath their feet Ahtohallan began to rumble once more. A flash of light erupted from its center and emmited through Tereza's memory…
Cleyo now stood before Honeymaren and Elsa, both crestfallen and broken. Her eyes had darkened. Her skin tinged as red as her mother's memory. Cleyo drew in a deep breath, and very softly; she began to laugh.
Her laughter grew louder and louder until she nearly doubled over her knees. Her hands shook against her thighs, and when Cleyo stood; her laughter persisted. The wash of sadness over her face entirely faded.
In its place, something demonic had taken over.
Elsa was certain she could see real flames alight behind her iris'. Cleyo's white hair began to glow as it shook back and forth against her shoulders.
"I should have known…" Cleyo began, her laughter fading into a chuff. "I should have known the magic of nature ensures balance, as does the men of earth…"
"Light and Dark…" She continued. Cleyo turned her back and looked up at the memories fading from the walls. "Night and Day, Noise and Silence, Right and Wrong… Good... and Evil… I see now, Elsa, what your palace of secrets was supposed to show me. I suppose after all these years, I was searching for what I already knew.
"I was designed to be the villain here- made to take down the hierarch. I am the bad, here, to balance out your good… but now... what to do with that knowledge…"
Elsa stepped toward her, ignoring how Honeymaren's hands tried to catch at her waist. "Ahtohallan shows you what you need to see, but it does not always provide the reasoning. No one knows how or why we were gifted the powers we were- when Ahtohallan decides to respond, that is up to the spirits themselves… You cannot draw conclusions from fear, Cleyo! Good and Evil… they hold no weight in the magical world!"
"Then answer me this, wise one... why was a child so neglected from love, given the power to manipulate flame?" Her head cocked at Elsa.
Her mouth drew to respond, but the words stayed stuck to Elsa's tongue.
"If love gifted you ice, then it is hate that produces the flame!"
"You don't know that!" Elsa shouted back. "That's what you've decided, but it isn't the truth!"
Laughing again, Cleyo backed into the center of the chamber. Fire ignited beneath her feet and against her hands. "The only truth I know now- is what I will do in honor of vengeance! I will burn your glacier back into the sea! I will set Arendelle aflame! I will kill your sister and the child growing inside of her, and I will be the evil I was always meant to be!"
I want to take a moment to thank some of the reviewers who have taken the time to show this story some love. When I set out to write this, it was a small ficlet of an idea. Since then, it has continued to grow, and grow... it has. Nothing about this story has gone as anticipated. Creatively, it's been a challenge. It has broken me to the point of tears and near-breakdowns. However, it is you - all my readers and reviewers... that keeps this fiction in motion.
So, cheers, and thank you all so much,
@AHappyPup - Your consistent feedback is the driving force behind my updates. You're kinder than I deserve, and I love you for it.
@Ari - Your reviews always make me smile. They make me feel like as if I am doing something right. Thank you, thank you.
@RavRav - If there was a winning comment last update, it was yours. I kinda wanted to cry, and scream a little... I was so honored to have you say that. THANK YOU, a million times over.
@JHeda - I do hope this little appreciate snippet makes up for your lack of sleep before work. I appreciate you taking the time to binge everything I had laid out. <3 Thank you, more than words.
@%%%% - You know who you are. And I absolutely know who you are now. WOW! A big massive thank you for leaving feedback on nearly every chapter as you worked your way through it. I could tell you may have been a little skeptical in the beginning, but I am so happy to hear my story reeled you in :) CHEERS, and freaking THANKS.
Chapter 18: Part Three - Fire and Ice
Where Magic Flows
Fire and Ice: Part Three
Long streams of water descended the walls. The floor beneath their feet buckled under the heat of the rising flames. Cleyo and the mages turned on them in unison. Elsa and Honeymaren were outnumbered, but Ahtohallan was their land to defend.
A powerful blast of power emitted from Elsa’s hands. It collided with a shield of fire, melting upon impact.
“Get behind me!” she shouted to Honeymaren.
Honeymaren had no choice but to comply. She fell into a defensive stance at Elsa’s back, her eyes saying all her mouth refused.
Cleyo’s rage sent a series of fireballs in their direction. Elsa warded them off with hits of her own. In one quick fluid motion, ice rained down from her palm. A set of spikes cast up from the ground and created a barrier between them and the mages.
“Woah!” Honeymaren shouted, startled by movement beneath them.
The floors trembled. Ahtohallan cried out in protest. Blocks of ice were rattled from the walls and crashed into the frozen earth. The mighty weight had their feet stumbling across the slick floor.
As another chunk fell, Elsa’s eyes grew large. “Ahtohallan is defending itself!” she explained. “We have to lead the mages out of here or the whole glacier will come down with us inside!”
“Isn’t that what she wants- to destroy Ahtohallan?”
Elsa threw Honeymaren a quick glare. “I don’t think she anticipates dying herself in the process!”
“Let her!” Honeymaren continued, pulling Elsa back by the arm. Another block of ice fell before their feet, and the two were knocked roughly together. “Let her take the glacier down and die trying! Then we can worry about getting out of here alive!”
Elsa’s response was cut-off as sparks poured in overhead. Thinking fast, Elsa ducked her and Honeymaren beneath an umbrella of ice. The sparks deterred. Red embers faded to black against its surface, however, the longer the sparks continued; the weaker Elsa’s ice became.
Honeymaren winced. Her eyes pulled to her shoulder. A tiny ember had slipped through the shield and fallen onto her sleeve. As she brushed it off, Elsa reinforced the ice with a second blast of her magic.
“You’re right.” she told Honeymaren. “We need to focus on getting out of here! I can’t put my energy into taking Cleyo down while Ahtohallan crumbles around us.”
She pulled the umbrella to their front, backing them toward the tunnel. Both women gasped as they were suddenly swept off their feet. Gale, having circled in, barreled through the frozen tundra with tempest force.
“It appears Ahtohallan has called for backup…” Honeymaren stilled with a hand on Elsa’s shoulder.
Elsa didn’t respond, though. She was distracted. Gale had dropped a folded letter, and Elsa watched it fluttering out of reach. She quickly dove. Her chest slid over the ice. The parchment dared to land amongst the snake of flames slithering her way, but she saved it at the last second.
Elsa stashed the letter safely beneath her shirt. Honeymaren pulled her to stand as her face filled with worry.
“Look!” she pointed toward the center of the dome. “This isn’t going to end well!”
Honeymaren was right. Gale’s presence only increased the strength of Cleyo’s powers. Flames raged to new heights. The heat trapped in the chamber was becoming unbearable, and the walls began to crumble at an unprecedented rate.
“Gale!” Elsa called her back. “Pull us out! Don’t encourage the flames!”
Yet, Gale was hungry; starving for vengeance. She had come in contact with the mages, and now her energy had stirred.
“The amulets! They’ve put Gale off-balance.” Honeymaren reminded her. “Here, take my hand!”
Elsa’s fingers slipped between her’s. Gale continued circling the flames, pulling their white tips up to the height of the ceiling. Amidst her destruction, she ignored Elsa’s calls. Not even the combined strength of Honeymaren’s love was enough to break her focus.
Suddenly though, a new arrival appeared. Tiny feet scampered up their hands and stilled against Elsa’s shoulder.
“Bruni!” she greeted with a sigh of relief. “I was wondering where you were hiding!”
He licked his eyeball as if saying, hello.
“Bruni, I need you to target the black cloaks! Distract them so I can call back Gale!”
He gave a single shake of his head. Bruni squeaked and leapt from her arm. He was next seen skittering across the slick floor, diving into the flames, before being lost to a wall of fire.
Honeymaren’s hand squeezed against Elsa’s. “You need to try again.” she encouraged her.
Elsa pulled the ice shield safely above them. She noticed that, very quickly, they were being back into the rear wall. Flames surged nearer, and Gale’s winds weren’t helping. If this battle with Cleyo continued this way, they wouldn’t have much longer to live.
“Okay.” she agreed with a deep breath.
Elsa closed her eyes.
She could feel the power alive within her veins. The source in her chest was blooming with strength. Elsa’s magic called out to Gale, while Honeymaren’s hand sat warm in her own.
The heat was a distraction, but energizing all the same.
In an instant, Elsa was swept off her feet again. Although this time, she was held safely above the floor. Honeymaren was beside her. She floated uneasily in Gale’s wings. The two kept their hands fastened together as they balanced amongst the circling wind.
Then from overhead, it began to snow. Thick blankets of white powder poured down from the height of the dome. As Honeymaren and Elsa were carried above their heads, Cleyo and the mages adjusted their stance.
Cleyo’s tirade did not stop with their advantage. Angrily, she cast a line of fire into Gale’s gust. Gale spiralled quickly, nearly dropping Honeymaren and Elsa. She caught them, and in a panic; deposited them at the edge of the final slide.
“If you take Ahtohallan down from its inside, you too shall meet your end!” Elsa bellowed. “This isn’t about magic, nor this place! This is about what you want from me !”
Swiftly, Elsa turned from the balcony. She tugged Honeymaren to follow, and led them into the narrow tunnel. Yet, its ground was slick. Its downward angle made it difficult for Honeymaren to climb.
Cleyo neared. They could hear the flames rising at their backs, but then Gale appeared; applying steady pressure against their legs. She led them up the slope. They were gliding across the ice at speed, blinded by the wind chill.
Honeymaren was brought to a hard and ungraceful stop beyond the foyer. She tripped, landing chest first onto the shores of Ahtohallan. Elsa slid in next to her. She pulled Honeymaren to her feet.
“Now what?” she looked to Elsa. Her brows drew low into a frown.
Despite the long summer days, the sky was growing dark. Time had escaped them while Ahtohallan divulged its secrets. Another day threatened to end.
“I can’t leave this place defenseless…” Elsa considered. “I swore to protect the Northern lands, but I can’t risk fueling Cleyo’s anger either. If she reaches Arendelle before I can…”
Elsa shivered as she turned silent.
Honeymaren’s expression came to match hers. She nodded. Her teeth grit. “We need to get the amulets away from the mages. It doesn’t solve everything, but it restores the balance of nature, and it can buy us more time! They can't stir the spirits without them, nor can they deflect your attacks. It’s the next right thing!”
Confusion grew across Elsa’s face. It quickly fell away and she shook her head. “No, I don’t want you getting involved.” she scolded.
“There’s no time to argue! I will take on the mages, and you worry about Cleyo!”
An orange glow emitted from beyond the foyer. Honeymaren took advantage of Elsa’s distraction and quickly darted from her reach. In one swift jump, she scaled the entryway. She landed, staff in hand, at the edge of the glacier’s mouth.
Angered, but unwilling to call attention to Honeymaren’s whereabouts; Elsa lowered into a fighting stance before the exit. She could feel the heat channeling out of the tunnel. A low rumble coursed through Ahtohallan. It’s aggressive structure, once again, buckled beneath the flames.
It was Cleyo who emerged first. She was floating over feet of fire. Her eyes glowed with powers, and the masked mages held fearlessly at her back.
“The time has come to take your glacier down, and you with it! Listen to how she cries in the light of my flames!”
Elsa shook her head. “You’re wasting your energy! You saw yourself that Ahtohallan is a place for which nature can only speak through. It’s a totem and nothing more!”
“A totem…” Cleyo sneered. “I will take everything of value from you, Elsa of Ahtohallan; starting with your own personal totem- your Northuldra female lover!”
“You mean me?”
Her entry rang loud. Honeymaren leapt from the glacier. Twisting mid air, her staff met Cleyo’s chest in a swift blow. She was sent reeling backward. The hilt of the spear caught against her collar, and something snapped. The amulet slipped beneath her cloak, clattering with a bounce onto the ice. It slid quickly out of reach, and the mages lunged for it. Honeymaren faced off in a low stance, daring them to even try. Elsa, then, had slid in at her side.
Sneering, Cleyo raised her fingers. She snapped... yet nothing happened.
Honeymaren flashed her a grin and laughed. “Ahtohallan had more to teach me than I might have believed… illusions only work on people who don’t know that they’re illusions!”
Cleyo growled. She leapt towards Honeymaren. Her hands enraged with flames. Cleyo’s anger peaked, and she launched forward in her attack.
A ball of ice knocked the energy from her palm, and Elsa stepped in; ready to battle. Unfortunately, Cleyo was all too eager to do the same.
Honeymaren slid from Elsa’s back as their war began. Fire furied and ice ensued. She was sliding across the shore, bringing herself to halt at the water’s ledge. Honeymaren picked up the amulet and stashed it safely in the inner pocket of her tunic.
Suddenly, and painfully, she was kicked back onto her rear. Honeymaren sank into a shallow incoming wave. Water soaked through her clothes. As she stood, a foot swung toward her cheek. Honeymaren ducked before impact, and swung her staff toward the leg. The sharp frozen edge sliced at the hem of a dark cloak.
When she righted, Honeymaren found herself head-on against Cleyo’s two cohorts. They were mages by trade, but they had evidently been trained in the art of hand to hand combat.
“A fight without magic; my specialty!” Honeymaren cheered, encouraging them to make their move.
She swung her staff again. As the first mage dodged, the second was caught off guard. The staff pulled around in a full circle. Yet, it stopped briefly before connecting with their knees in the opposite direction.
“You’re going to have to be quicker than that!” Honeymaren gloated. She jabbed fast, nailing the mage with a second hit.
Back behind her, Cleyo and Elsa continued. Their defenses were nearly moot. Both fire and ice proved too opposite for either to hold the upperhand. It was all about landing the best shot. However, neither were having much luck with that either. They were dancing hand in hand with their powers; both waiting for the other to tire out. Each watched closely for their enemy to falter. Despite the fear that came with the thought, Elsa knew this might be a fight to the very end.
Honeymaren struck the mages in unison. One was knocked onto their back, and their amulet unveiled from beneath their collar. Thinking fast, Honeymaren dug the tip of her spear into the earth. She flung herself at the mage still on their feet, and pushed off with her weight against the spear. She sailed through the air and Honeymaren’s legs braced into their chest. The mage was kicked back into the water, while Honeymaren landed knees to chest over their ally.
She held the tip of her spear into the mage’s throat. Her second hand tore the amulet free. For good measure, Honeymaren stepped back onto the mage’s ankle. They cried out in pain, and Honeymaren knew she’d slowed their attack.
“Two down, one to go.” She stashed the second amulet.
Gale swooped low against Honeymaren’s feet. Her energy was buzzing, and heightened in Honeymaren’s proximity.
“Better call in some backup here, Gale! Things are about to get ugly.”
Both mages were back on their feet. Like them, Honeymaren was wet and cold. The night would surround them soon. They’d be at risk of frostbite if this fight continued much longer. However, Honeymaren had more to lose than they did. She’d fight to the death if she had to. She’d do just about anything to keep Elsa and her sister safe.
Honeymaren lowered before the mages. She could see the shiny gold chain peeking out beneath one of their collars. With a deep breath, Honeymaren lunged forward on her toes. As she did, a large wave curled in from overhead.
The mages and Honeymaren were drenched with water. When her vision cleared from salt, Honeymaren found Nokk bowed before her. He was glaring; snarling at her. His teeth bore grit.
“It’s not me!” Honeymaren promised with her hands raised. “It’s them! Elsa is with me!”
She could see Nokk dizzy with energy. He shook his head, clearing the fog, and turned to face the mages. Honeymaren seized the opportunity to dive for the amulet. She was filled with newfound adrenaline, and was ready to see her fight through to the end.
The mages weren’t the only ones distracted. Cleyo’s attention pulled to the shore as Nokk turned on her coven.
Given the chance she needed, Elsa pulled the ice higher amongst Cleyo’s feet. It curled in at the sides, creating a hollow arch. Cleyo was sent sliding toward the shore in a boat made from the glacier itself. She scrambled to leap out as Honeymaren knocked one of the mages in on top of her. She stepped back and held the third amulet proudly in her grasp.
Beside her, Nokk swept the third mage into his mane. With a quick shake of his head, they were cast into air and carried into the boat by Gale’s wind. Their combined weight caused them to slide further down the embankment. Elsa watched the mages struggle as fire burst to life in Cleyo’s hands; threatening the boat.
“Go!” Elsa breathlessly commanded. “Sail them to the east- as far as you can take them!”
Nokk did not wait for more. His legs curled upward in a powerful swell. The canoe sank into the wave, and was directed out to sea in Nokk’s own personal tide.
The two women watched from shore as the canoe was taken further from Ahtohallan. With hearts racing and sweat thick against their back; they gasped for air.
Yet before the mages were gone from sight, a beacon of fire bore through the night sky. There was one… and then another…
They were a flair for aide, but also a reminder that their war was far from over.
Where Magic Flows
A Bridge Between: Part One
'A frozen heart worth mining…'
Honeymaren frowned. Her eyes lowered over Elsa's shoulder. "I don't understand…"
Refolding the note, Elsa stashed it beneath her top. "It's Anna." she sighed. "It's a code, a Arendellian harvesting rhyme. It's something only I could understand. Ryder and Kristoff must have returned to Arendelle and told her about the mages. She wants to make sure it's me before saying anything that might be intercepted."
Honeymaren nodded. "Smart thinking… what's the answer to prove it's you?"
She watched as Elsa's hand lifted to the air. A sudden burst of her powers erupted, and was carried up into the sky by Gale.
"It's ice... Anna knows if I can use my powers, we are safe."
The two watched Gale disappear into the darkening horizon.
"So… now what?" Honeymaren asked.
"Knowing the mages will return, I know I shouldn't leave Ahtohallan unprotected, but I don't want to leave my sister defenseless either. I know nothing about Russhave, nor their armies… I'm worried that Arendelle is not equipped for their numbers. But it could be another trap set by Cleyo, and you and I really can't afford another one."
Elsa's toes planted against the shore as she stared across the Dark Sea. The air was humid. Their vision grew more limited with the fallen sun. Honeymaren could see Elsa was battling between thoughts. Responsibility tugged her in two directions, and neither held any guarantees.
"Arendelle will be Cleyo's next target." Honeymaren stepped in closer at Elsa's side. "She has already been overpowered by you twice. She knows now that Ahtohallan cannot bestow powers, nor give her the answers she desired. She'll seek alliance with her country, and lead the war against the family of Arendelle."
Frowning, Elsa turned to her. "You sound certain of that?"
Honeymaren shrugged. She bit her lip. "It's hard to explain…"
"I'd like you to try."
Her brown eyes diverted. Honeymaren's gaze turned to her toes as she fidgeted with her hands. "We should head for Arendelle. I'll explain on the way."
Elsa studied her for a long moment. Her head tilted and she sighed. She was too tired, and too worried about her sister to question it. "You hide those amulets while I fetch Bruni. I'm sure he's missing the forest by now…"
Honeymaren waited until she could no longer hear Elsa's footsteps behind her. She spun, catching a glimpse of her swishing blonde hair as it disappeared beyond the walls of ice. Her heart was sinking fast. Honeymaren's throat was suddenly, painfully dry.
"Only Ahtohallan knows…" she whispered. "-yet now, so do I."
Quill tip to parchment, ink traveled quickly across the paper. Anna had the tiny snowflake carving clasped against her chest. Her hands flexed over its cold surface. Like a teether, Anna worshiped the sculpture as if it kept her closer to her sister.
"Go on now…" Anna folded the note, hurrying to lift her hand into the air.
Gale swooped down at once. She tugged the letter from Anna's hold and departed between the balcony doors. Sighing, Anna watched her go. Not until her final green leaf was lost to the distance, did she turn back around.
Once she had, Anna's brows lifted to her hairline. "Kristoff?" she whispered, disbelieving.
She was running across the room as fast as her feet would carry her. Warm hazel eyes watched her closely from the bed. Kristoff weakly straightened into the pillows. He let out a faint cough and sagged onto his arm.
"Anna? What's going on?"
She collapsed beside him. She lifted a hand to her husband's cheek before kissing his head. "You're awake-awake, right?" Anna nearly begged. "-not like before… you're really okay?"
Kristoff glanced down at his shirtless state. The feeling of silk against his bare legs suggested he wore nothing more than the bed sheet covering his body.
"What am I doing here?" His attention returned. His vision was foggy, but with Anna's face as close to his as it was; Kristoff could see her as clear as day.
Anna dropped her hand. "Tell me what you remember..."
Pale cheeks flushed to red. There was an ache in his head that hadn't dulled. "I was on my way to the forest. It was me and… Sven!" Kristoff panicked. "We were attacked. He was-"
"Sven's down in the stables..." Anna's hand settled over his chest. "He returned just before you did."
The air left Kristoff's lungs in a single breath. "Oh thank goodness…"
"But go on, what do you remember?"
Kristoff frowned, clenching his hands around the bedsheets. "It's fuzzy… we were attacked by people without faces. They did something to me… I don't remember… and Elsa. She was there; and Gale..." he shook his head. "How did I get back here?"
Anna drew closer to his hip. She placed the snowflake in her lap and took Kristoff's hands in hers. "There were mages in the forest… they must have captured you before attacking Elsa and Honeymaren. The rest of Northuldra had been sent to the North Mountain, but Elsa was there and helped you escape. It was Ryder who brought you back here. He told me everything he could."
Her thumb stroked his. The skin beneath Anna's eyes was dark and puffy. She looked as if she hadn't slept in a week, and Kristoff's heart ached at the sight. So much had changed in this face since he'd last seen it. Anna was in pain.
"How long has it been?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Sven returned two days ago now, and Ryder arrived a day after that, but… you wouldn't wake up. Every time you did, it never lasted long. I didn't know if you were poisoned or injured… Are you sure you feel alright?"
Kristoff stretched his neck to the side. "Thirsty mostly… and I have a bit of a headache, too. It feels like I was given a sedative of some kind."
Before he could stop her, Anna moved from the bed. She left the room, and when she returned; Kristoff's gaze stayed strictly on her.
Anna remained standing as she handed him a glass of water. "I've sent for the doctor. He'll want to see you again now that you're awake."
Kristoff quickly polished off the glass before handing it back to her. "Where are Elsa and Honeymaren?"
Her blue eyes dropped to the floor. "I don't know… with Gale back, I sent her a message. We need to wait for her to respond, but…"
"-but what?" Kristoff tried to move onto his knees, but Anna was suddenly beside him again. She placed a hand to his chest and directed Kristoff back into the pillows.
"There's more." Anna whispered.
He watched Anna take her bottom lip between her teeth. "More?"
Anna sighed. Her hands were back in his. "Arendelle has been invaded..."
"What?" he shouted and pulled from her hold.
Anna quickly caught his arm, holding him still. "Nothing has happened yet." she explained. "It's two countries- Russhave and Westleton. I've been advised not to engage until after they make their demands. We don't know enough about them yet, and it's not the right time."
"What, Anna! Arendelle can't sit back and wait to be invaded! It doesn't make any sense!"
She was shaking her head. "Their numbers far outweigh ours… If I force Arendelle to stand against them, the whole kingdom would collapse… I've called for a formal hearing with their leaders, but they appear to be sitting on it."
Seeing Anna's tired face further drain had Kristoff relaxing into the sheets. He dragged her with him until she was laying in the crook of his arm. "So… invaders, Sven, Elsa, Gale, and now me… you've had quite the week, haven't you?"
Tearfully, Anna laughed. "Honey, I've had quite the life."
"Touche." Kristoff scoffed.
They waited a long moment in silence. Kristoff's fingers combed through her loose hair. He felt the tension draining from Anna's shoulders and he held her tighter.
"We will figure this out." Kristoff promised. "This is Arendelle, and it's our home. No one can come in and take it from us."
Anna rotated to look at him, her chin dragging along Kristoff's chest. "-and Elsa's… Arendelle is Elsa's home, too. But I can't do anything without my other half of the bridge. I'm afraid for her, and for Arendelle."
Kristoff softly hummed. His hand replaced against her hip. "You know historically speaking, neither of you are in the same place at the same time, but somehow you still manage to work together to fix the problem at hand. For all we know, Elsa is already doing her part. You know she'd stop at nothing to make this right."
Anna turned from him. Her lips curled downwards. "I do know that, and it's what has me so afraid. No matter the issue, no matter the consequences; my sister will sacrifice her own life to solve the world's problems."
"Funny," Kristoff teased. "That reminds me of someone else I know…"
"Who?" she questioned mindlessly.
His finger touched to her cheek. Kristoff turned Anna's head until their eyes met. "You, Anna… I'm reminded of you."
Arendelle has been invaded. It was mercury that poisoned the fjord. I know there are problems in the forest, but I need you here with me.
Elsa could feel the note tucked against the bare skin of her chest. Heading to Arendelle had been the right course of action. She missed her sister, and she needed to make sure she was safe. But how had Honeymaren known? Why did she speak as if she was certain? Those thoughts had plagued Elsa the most. Since leaving Ahtohallan, she could think of nothing else.
"You've been awfully quiet…"
Elsa looked to her travel partner. As Honeymaren turned, the full moon caught against the sides of her face. Her brown eyes scanned Elsa cautiously, and her arms wrapped tight around themselves.
"I'm sorry." she frowned.
"It's okay, it's just- usually you're the one trying to get me to open up…"
Honeymaren shrugged. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come out. Her lips came back together and she sighed.
It was late. By tell of the night sky, it was sometime after eleven. The two had crossed the Dark Sea, and now navigated the river by moonlight. They'd said next to nothing since leaving Ahtohallan. Yet, Honeymaren looked as if she wanted to. She'd turn to Elsa, blink, and then quickly look away. Even Bruni was curious. From his station on her shoulder, he'd eye Elsa and tilt his head. She thought perhaps he was ushering her into saying something nice.
Before she could scold him, Bruni lept down from Elsa's arm. He zigged and zagged at her feet for a moment before scurrying off into the woods.
"Do you, um, want to try and explain what happened earlier?" Elsa wrung her hands at her waist.
"Not really…" Honeymaren divulged.
She groaned. Honeymaren ran a hand through her hair and came to a swift halt. Elsa was forced to follow. She stood in front of her with her brows held low in curiosity.
"I don't want to say it, or tell you anything; because I don't want you to get upset. Or run away, or whatever else you decide to do when you're uncomfortable!"
Honeymaren wouldn't look at her, and Elsa took a cautious step back. "Why would I do that?"
Stifling a breath, Honeymaren's eyes pulled up from her feet. "-because… I know… I know what gift Ahtohallan has given me."
She'd said it so fast, Elsa nearly hadn't caught it. Her head shook, and her face lowered to frown. "I thought we knew. I thought- it's different from what I've seen?"
"No…" she sang awkwardly. "-but it's different than you might think it is."
Back straightening, Elsa's chin tilted and her teeth grit. "Well, I don't think I understand it much at all, so why don't you explain it to me."
Her tone was sharp; not nearly as soft as Honeymaren was used to. Elsa's walls were coming up. She was pulling away and getting ready to run.
"Did you understand what Cleyo meant when she called me your totem?" Honeymaren asked.
"You were feeding my magic… making me stronger, no?"
"Kinda…" Honeymaren's fingers danced at her waist. "Can we sit?"
Her blue eyes widened. Elsa took another step back. "You're making me nervous…"
"I know, I know… I don't mean to, but here- just sit."
She directed Elsa over to the ledge of the cliff. Honeymaren sat with her legs dangling over the side. Elsa hesitated. She appeared skeptical, but then decidedly dropped a safe distance away from her.
"Go on…" her voice nearly pleaded.
Honeymaren caught her eyes before she began. "Ahtohallan didn't give me powers… not like it did for you and Cleyo. I can't do magic, or shield myself from it… only yours… as it stands, Ahtohallan's gift was giving me to you."
A thick mask of confusion layered over Elsa's face. "What? I-I don't understand..."
Without asking permission, Honeymaren took Elsa's hand in her own. "What Ahtohallan gave to me, it can't be used by anyone else. It's like being your totem, but different… it's a connection between a spirit and the human world. You can use me to draw wisdom and power like you do at Ahtohallan. It's like having an empath."
"-but how do you know this? No one ever said…"
Honeymaren's head shook. "No one had to. I could understand Ahtohallan when you held my hand. It was as if I lived in each second of every memory we'd seen."
Elsa slowly pulled her hand away. "You know everything?"
"No…" she bit her lip. "-only what was shown to us. I could feel what you felt. Even here, now; I felt your fear, your confusion… I don't know why, but in those memories- it felt like being there. Knowing everyone and everything, and understanding their decisions."
"That's how you knew Cleyo would go to Arendelle?"
Honeymaren nodded. "Her anger was… powerful. She wants to take from you what she could never have herself."
Elsa held her breath. "My family."
Honeymaren nodded again. "-but there's more… this is more complicated than that."
However, Elsa wasn't prepared for more. She didn't want to hear complicated. She stood up quickly and started back down the river.
Yet, Honeymaren followed after her. She came to walk at her side. Elsa had wrapped her hands around her arms and was soothing herself in long leisurely strokes.
"I understand this might be strange for you, or upsetting, even… I'm not sure I can process it myself yet-"
"Process?" Elsa nearly snorted. Her head tilted to each side. "You just informed me that you can read all of my emotions, Honeymaren! I can't even do that on my own! Upset doesn't begin to cover how I'm feeling, but you should know that… shouldn't you?"
Honeymaren momentarially forgot how to walk. She stumbled and raced to catch up. "I know, but Elsa, listen!"
She grabbed her arm, but Elsa quickly pulled away. Eyes wide and staring at her, Honeymaren couldn't help but laugh. She laughed until Elsa stopped walking away from her.
Angered, she turned back. Her hands planted over her hips. "What's so funny? What about this could possibly be funny?" Elsa demanded.
"You!" Honeymaren managed between laughs. "You're funny! I've never seen you like this before!"
"And how am I, exactly? Angry? Scared? What is so funny about that?"
Silencing herself with a deep breath, Honeymaren slowly approached. "No, it's… you're defiant… childish, I think."
"Are you really calling me childish right now?" Her blue eyes flashed with rage.
"No, yes- I don't know!" Honeymaren continued until she was standing in front of her. "It's… different. I haven't seen this side of you. It's refreshing, and I like it, honestly. It makes you… human. I didn't mean it in a bad way!"
"There's a good way to be called childish?" Elsa's arms folded.
"No, but- forget about that! Forget I said it. Elsa, we have to talk about this!" she forced. "I know you're scared and angry, but I'm not thrilled about it either! I don't want to be some sort of vessel for you magic. I didn't ask for this. I was happy being me!"
Frowning, Elsa turned to her feet. Her hands clasped together against her stomach. "I know… I'm, I'm sorry. I know this is not easy for you either… I just- I can't process what this means, or why it happened! A totem… it makes no sense… I'm already the bridge between spirits and humans."
"Well, the way I see it- a bridge is grounded to the earth by pillars; a totem, if you will. Something connects them to the ground so they don't get lost to the other side. You said it yourself, Ahtohallan decides on a whim when it should intervene. Your mother defended your father. I defended you, and Cleyo was left defenseless… There's no rhyme nor reason for it, but Ahtohallan only takes what was already there inside of us. Born from love, you were given light. I respected and trusted you, like a totem, long before I was made into one…
"I know it's scary and strange that I might understand emotions you haven't figured out yourself, but imagine what I can teach you; show you… it's not a threat, Elsa! It's just expanding on what you already are."
Her attention rose to Honeymaren slowly. Elsa's temperature steadily increased. "We should keep going." she requested.
Honeymaren gave her a short nod. "Of course…"
She knew Elsa had been pushed far enough. She was overwhelmed. They both were. There was so much left to say, but there was time for that still. Instead, Honeymaren allowed Elsa to take the lead. They continued down the river with the full moon directly above their heads. The entire forest awashed in a wave of white. Reminenets from Gale's tirade littered the shore. The water surged like it did after a day of rain. It was quiet, though, and seemingly peaceful. Both women felt the blissful night closing in around them.
For a long while, she had kept her distance from Elsa. Honeymarens eye's held at her back. They wandered that way in silence; neither saying anything until Elsa suddenly laughed.
"I can't believe you called me childish..." Her head turned over her shoulder, and she rolled her eyes.
Elsa's feet had slowed, allowing Honeymaren to catch up. "You're ridiculous, you know that?"
She hummed and faced forward. "No more ridiculous than you." Elsa whispered as they walked side by side.
"Well, I can't believe you said you loved me…"
Wide blue eyes shot to Honeymaren before Elsa's expression turned coy. "You said it first, you know?"
"I did." Honeymaren's lips pursed and she nodded. "I just never meant for you to feel like you needed to say it back."
"I said it because I meant it… I felt it, but you should know that now, hmm?"
Elsa didn't appear as fearful as Honeymaren would have guessed. "I'm not sure I understood what was happening until after Ahtohallan brought back the past…" she explained.
"So, you're saying you don't believe me?" Elsa arched her brow.
"No, no I was saying- I believed you without needing to try. I know you wouldn't have said it if you hadn't meant it. That's not like you at all." Honeymaren shrugged.
She turned her attention back to the walk. Elsa contemplated her silently. Her eyes traced the side of Honeymaren's face.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
Honeymaren's attention held straight. "I'm not sure I'm thinking anything at the moment..."
"Liar…" Elsa jested. "You're frowning, and you won't look at me!"
Facing her briefly, Honeymaren smirked. "I wasn't aware you wanted me to. I thought you might still be mad."
"Mad?" she reeled back. "Why would I be mad at you?"
"Oh, I don't know… for leaving Northuldra, taking that hit from your powers, attacking Cleyo, or gaining these strange abilities neither of us understand…"
Elsa fought to giggle. Her lips curled upward. "Only three of the four were your fault… well actually, that's not entirely true… They're all your fault, but no… I'm not mad at you, Honeymaren."
"A few minutes ago you were."
Bumping against her lightly, Elsa rolled her eyes. "I wasn't mad. I was afraid! There's a difference between the two. But, I'm not afraid anymore… not about that anyway."
"Really?" Honeymaren's feet came to a halt.
Elsa stopped beside her and shook her head. "No… not when there are plenty of other concerns to be worried about. Being upset about that seems silly. I can't change it and neither can you. Besides, if I'm being honest, I don't think it affects us all that much."
Honeymaren's brows lifted. "What makes you say that?"
Elsa shrugged. She averted her gaze. "Before yesterday, I still would have said being your friend has made me stronger. There's a good chance you could read my emotions better than I could, too. Sure there are a few grey areas in there, but now that I've thought about it; not much has changed..."
Skeptically, she turned her head. Honeymaren's eyes lowered and her lips drew to the side.
"You don't believe me?" Elsa asked. "-that I'm telling you the truth?"
"No, I believe you… I'm just surprised, is all."
"Is that all?" Elsa held out her hand.
Honeymaren's attention flickered between Elsa and her hand. Very slowly she reached out. Her fingers touched her palm, and then she flattened them at the center. Elsa took their hands against her hip. She smiled briefly before Honeymaren by their hold.
The two continued South toward Arendelle; both content in their short moment of peace.
I'm sure you could all use a break from the stress and chaos of this story. I know by the time I got here, I decided I wasn't going to time jump, and just take it slow instead. That Cleyo really ran me for a loop, too. I was happy to give you all some fluff for a change. I promise there is more of that to come.
Where Magic Flows
Part Two - A Bridge Between
"Are you tired?" Elsa couldn't help but giggle, seeing Honeymaren's head slowly bob.
Her neck pulled straight, and eyes widened. "What?" she asked.
Elsa's laughter continued. "You're falling asleep on me…"
The words were gentle; teasing, even. However, they caused Honeymaren to step further away from her.
"I hadn't meant that literally..." Elsa teased.
Reeling in a deep breath, Honeymaren tried to shake the fatigue. "I'm sorry… it feels like I haven't slept in days!"
"We haven't," she deadpanned. Elsa's lips pulled tight into a smirk. "-but on the bright side, we don't have much further to go. We should arrive in Arendelle before nightfall."
Honeymaren scoffed. "You say that as if I know what time it is…"
She allowed her head to tip forward. Honeymaren's eyes closed. Not allowing herself to get pulled into the comfort of sleep, she groaned and stretched high into her arms. When Honeymaren's eyes reopened, she found Elsa walking much closer to her side than she had before. Her hand tucked into the bend of Honeymaren's arm and she drew her further away from the ledge.
"The last thing we need right now is for you to fall off the ravine..." Elsa lectured. Instead of releasing her, Elsa's fingers closed around Honeymaren's bicep.
"Promise me I can sleep when we get to Arendelle?"
Elsa giggled again. "I promise."
"And you'll sleep, too?" Her brow curved into a perfect arch as she leaned against Elsa's hold.
"I'm sure there's a few things to deal with first, but then after; yes, I'll sleep. In fact, I'm certain Anna will insist on it... She's stubborn like that."
"You're both stubborn..." Honeymaren childishly grumbled. "Hey! But she's going to be a great mom! That's crazy, isn't it?"
The color returned to Honeymaren's cheeks as she turned to her.
"Crazy would be if I hadn't expected it…" Elsa explained. "-but I've been waiting for that announcement for some time now... How I found out, however, that was crazy... or surprising, to say the least."
Honeymaren hummed. "Anna wanted kids?"
"Since she was one herself. Anna has always been the maternal princess of Arendelle." Elsa smiled as she spoke.
"You don't want to be a mom?" Honeymaren frowned. Her eyes remained tired and glassy.
Seeing her sleep-hungry expression had Elsa's smile growing. "It's not that I did or didn't… I've always been indifferent to the idea of kids. Magical ice powers, remember?"
Her fingers waggled teasingly at Honeymaren.
"Still, I think you'd be a good one." she stated matter of factly.
"Is that so?" Elsa sang.
"Uh, huh." Honeymaren nodded playfully. "You kept me from walking off the ravine."
"Well, that says it all, then. I must be parent material."
"Wanna know why else?" Honeymaren leaned in closer. Her smile was a little too wide to be perceived as normal. "...because you're pretty."
Honeymaren stumbled and Elsa held her upright. "Okay, sleepy… now you've officially lost it!"
"Elsa?" Honeymaren questioned, and her eyes gave a long, slow blink. "I'm tired." she pouted.
"I can see that..." Elsa gripped her tighter beneath the arm. "-but luckily for you, I might have lied about that arrival time."
"What'd you mean?" her words blended together.
"Look…" Elsa carefully turned Honeymaren to face the river. Her chin motioned towards the distance.
In the belly of a large, incoming wave was the Nokk. He had the full force of the tide behind him. His head bore low as he surfed across the fast moving water, and surged with the strength of the Dark Sea.
"Woah! Incoming!" Honeymaren announced, and quickly ducked behind Elsa.
"I was afraid of this…" Elsa replied.
As she frowned, Elsa lowered into a fighting stance. Her palms lifted and held out straight from her chest. The nokk was nearing quickly, and headed straight for them.
"He's stirred…" Honeymaren stepped in at Elsa's side.
Her drowsy state had been momentarily shaken. She held out her hand and Elsa's brow furrowed further.
"I can't! I won't, not with you here-"
"Trust me." Honeymaren cut her off.
Her hand raised again, but higher this time. Elsa looked down and softly sighed. She laced their fingers together before lowering them between their hips.
"If anything goes wrong, please let me deal with him..." Elsa calmly begged.
As Nokk continued to near, Elsa closed her eyes. She reeled in a deep breath and concentrated on the heat of Honeymaren's hand. Elsa allowed the love and warmth that she felt there escape into the air around them. Nature was all too happy to accept it, absorbing it graciously and sending it back out into the world.
When her eyes reopened a moment later, Nokk had slowed. His expression calmed as he breached the shoreline. Stopping before both women, he crooned into Elsa's hand. A soft whine escaped him and he turned to greet Honeymaren.
"The other mages must have rescued Cleyo… I understand now why she left them behind- regardless, we must hurry to Arendelle!" she tugged Honeymaren forward. "Nokk will get us there as fast as he can!"
Honeymaren, however, had remained heavy against her feet. Confused, Elsa turned back to her. She appeared dazed and pale-faced beside her. Honeymaren's legs wobbled as she stood, and the brown in her eyes had dimmed to a dull grey.
"Are you alright?" Elsa asked.
Honeymaren didn't respond. She stared at Elsa as if looking through her. She hadn't heard her, but she tried stepping forward anyway. As Honeymaren did, her unsteady feet caused her to overbalance. Elsa was immediately there to catch her, holding Honeymaren up beneath the arm.
"What's going on?" she whispered. Anxiety thickened her tone.
Elsa slowly led her toward Nokk. Honeymaren leaned her full weight against him, complexion still draining from its tan color. Elsa was frowning at her. Eyes baring low, she was trying to read Honeymaren's mind.
"Sorry…" she breathed. Her eyes blinked to clear the daze. "-just dizzy… maybe hungry… that's all..."
"Are you sure?" Elsa's hold tightened as Honeymaren continued to sway. "You look worse than you did before…"
Turning away from her, Honeymaren worried her lip between her teeth. "I'll explain later… when we're back in Arendelle. I promise there's nothing to worry about now."
She'd heard her, but Elsa didn't move. She stepped in closer to Honeymaren, forcing her attention upwards. "You said that earlier, while at Ahtohallan… why do I get the feeling you're still keeping something from me?"
Drawing in a short breath. Honeymaren sighed. "I tried earlier, but you were already so overwhelmed... I didn't want to stress you out more over something we don't need to concern ourselves with now."
"You're aware that none of that makes me feel better, right?" Elsa touched a finger to Honeymaren's chin. "Tell me... You have to tell me."
Lost in deep pools of blue, Honeymaren stared. What she felt there- it was fear, anger, and most prominently; it was love. Elsa's love for her surged more noticeably than any other emotion. That revelation had Honeymaren feeling warm, and caused her to pull away.
Her hand remained on Nokk to hold herself upright. "As I said earlier, there's more to this connection than just my ability to feel emotions… more than strengthening yours… When we touch, when you're using your powers… you're taking from me… You're draining my energy, my emotion… my life force..." her words cut off at a whisper.
"What?" Elsa fought with her eyes held wide. Her hands caught against her waist as if burned. "Why wouldn't you tell me? Why would you allow me to use you like that, then?"
Honeymaren's ears hid behind her shoulders. "Elsa, you already know why… There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you... for Northuldra, and even for Arendelle… You're too important to me."
Growling, Elsa's arms crossed. "-but knowing how I felt about being responsible for your injuries and for your heart- did you not think I would be upset about this? You kept this from me! You let me use you- hurt you, even!"
"Elsa, please!" Honeymaren stepped forward, but Elsa held up her hands.
"No. You were right... We should finish this conversation in Arendelle."
She motioned sternly to Nokk. Her tone had released all but formality. Honeymaren hesitated briefly until, with a sigh, she guiltily clambered onto Nokk's back.
Elsa slid in behind her. She took the reins in her hands. She was careful to keep space between her and Honeymaren; while using her arms to keep them both upright. Elsa wouldn't touch her more than she needed to. It was fear that kept her back rigid.
With a single tug of the reins, Nokk darted forward. He would have them at Arendelle in no time, but now Elsa's feelings about being there were deeply conflicted.
"Say that again." Anna's arms folded over her chest.
She stood at the foot of her bed as Kristoff sat up and peaked over her shoulder. Both Kai and Mattias were in the doorway. Their hands tucked behind their backs as they addressed them. With teeth grit and eyes low, Mattias stepped forward.
"Neither Russhave or Westleton will make arrangements with Arendelle until Elsa has returned from Northuldra."
Anna blinked. She blinked again. "I'm sorry, but what does Elsa have to do with this? I'm the Queen of Arendelle now, and it is my kingdom that is under siege!"
"Yes, your majesty," Kai drew in at Mattias' side. "We have made both parties aware of this, however, they are only interested in meeting with you if Elsa is also there to attend."
Temper short, Anna rolled her eyes. "Did you also make them aware that Elsa is not here, and that no one knows where she is?"
Both Kai and Mattias remained silent as Kristoff slid to the end of the bed. Anna's attention turned to him. Seeing the concern in his expression caused her to soften instantly. With a gentle sigh, she straightened and pulled her hands against her waist.
"I'm sorry," Anna nodded, drawing her eyes back to Kai and Mattias. "I appreciate you coming here to give me the update. I will take that into consideration, but for now we must move forward under the assumption that Elsa will not be returning anytime soon. I will be making the next address to both Russhave and Westleton; how they chose to respond- that is what we must discuss in our next council."
Kai nodded sharply. "Yes, your majesty. Allow me to gather the committee members. I will have them convene in the meeting hall by half-two."
"-and I will rally the queen's guard. It's important we have our men well-prepared for whatever comes next." Mattias added.
"I quite agree…" Anna hummed, her lips tugging to the side. "Until then, please leave me to discuss this with my husband. There are certain aspects of this addressment he has not yet been made aware of."
"Of course, your majesty." Mattias bowed, and then Kai did the same.
"I shall return to collect you before the meeting." his arm pulled over his waist politely before following Mattias from the room.
Once alone, Anna took her time when turning to face Kristoff. Her eyes drew up slowly from the floor and hesitated briefly before finding his.
"What haven't you told me?" Kristoff asked. His expression tightened.
Stepping forward, Anna stood before him. Her hands splayed over Kristoff's knees and she bit down on her lip. "We discovered that the source of the illness was actually intentional poisoning from a source called mercury… we are under the assumption that either, or both, Russhave and Westleton are responsible for the deaths of those children..."
His brows lowered and Kristoff tilted his head. "You learned this after I left?" she nodded. "-but you're only telling me now?"
"I'm telling you now because I will have to make hard decisions because of it. If Arendelle learns that they are responsible for the poisoning, and for the lengths we will have to go to in order to decontaminate our waters; they will want the monarch to do everything they can to hold them accountable. I have to address both Russhave and Westleton under the impression that they mean to do Arendelle harm. I cannot assume they are here for any other reason..."
His frown only deepened. "-but Anna, they outnumber us! You said it yourself that Arendelle can't win…"
"I know…" Anna sighed. "-but that is why I am telling you this now. For the sake of our people, and in honor of the children we lost, I have to try by whatever means possible."
Kristoff's hands came to cover hers. "What do you mean by that?"
She shrugged. "I don't know yet... I will meet with the council and see what they have to say. Just know, this is larger than losing Arendelle to an enemy force. This is about providing justice to those affected by their actions before the siege itself can happen."
"You plan to attack our enemy outright?"
Anna shook her head, her eyes pulling away from his. "I am saying, if I have to- I need you to understand why I've done it."
"-but you plan to address them yourself?" Kristoff quickly stood, demanding Anna's attention. "That would put you right in the heat of battle! Anna, no! That's not safe! Not now..."
Drawing in a sharp breath of air, Anna lifted her chin. "My responsibilities as Queen of Arendelle don't stop because of personal matters, Kristoff. You know this!"
"Let me do it!" He took her shoulders beneath his hands. "Let me address Russhave and Westleton! Stay behind with the council and be here to support Arendelle, come what may."
Anna pulled back from his hold. Her eyes stayed strict on Kristoff's. "You know I can't do that! Not only are you still recovering yourself, but this is something that can only be done by the queen."
Unwilling to listen, Kristoff sauntered over to the dresser. He pulled a tunic on over his thin dress shirt and replaced his sleep-pants with tan slacks.
"I'm coming with you to that meeting." he said, not looking at her. "I want to hear for myself what the committee says is best."
Anna stayed stationed at the center of the room. Her arms hugged around her waist. "I would really rather you say here and rest…"
"It's not going to happen, Anna! I can't rest knowing what you plan to do!"
Kristoff continued moving around the room so fast, Anna struggled to follow with her eyes. He was angry; that went without saying. However, Anna didn't know how to prove to him that she knew this was the right thing to do.
Finally, she sighed. "If I allow you to come to the meeting with me, then you have to be willing to accept whatever decision we come to."
He turned sharply toward her. Kristoff's mouth opened to respond, but Anna had continued.
"-if we decided to use force against their armies, you have to accept it. If you fight me on it, you'll not only embarrass me, but you will also dishonor the committee."
Anna spoke like a true and noble queen. Very rarely had she used this tone with Kristoff, and he decidedly realized why. He hated it. Kristoff hated the dejected way that Anna looked at him. He was angered by her words and, most importantly, the lies.
"Anna, I don't care about the committee! I care about you, and about our child!"
"Don't!" she held up her hand. "Don't make me choose, and don't make this any harder on me than it already is! As queen, I fight for Arendelle first. You have always known this about me! Please, don't try and change that now!"
Anger, sadness, frustration, and fear… they plagued Kristoff all at once. As his mind traveled between emotions, his eyes followed with them. They traced over Anna's pale face and over her tightly clasped hands. He stepped forward, and she stepped back. Kristoff did it again, but Anna had frozen stiff.
Very gently, Kristoff took her face between his hands. His thumbs brushed beneath her eyes and he sighed. "Do what you need to do." he whispered.
Anna's mouth moved to respond, but Kristoff continued.
"Do what you need to do, but know I will be at your side every step of the way."
Brows drawing low, Anna assessed him cautiously. "You won't fight me on it?"
He shook his head.
"-and you won't try to stop me?"
Again, Kristoff's head turned. "No, Anna… as much as I don't want to support you in this, I took the same oath to protect you that you made for Arendelle."
Anna hesitated as she arched forward onto her toes. Her eyes continued to circle his face while she leaned into him. After a short breath, Anna's lips landed on his. She felt Kristoff's hands tangle into her hair, and he held her to him tightly.
"I love you…" he mumbled. His lips sought Anna's once more. "Don't forget that."
When she pulled back, Anna's heart stilled momentarially. Her husband was in pain, yet still willing to meet her half way.
"I love-" Her door opened after a very short knock.
Kai was there, appearing flushed and breathless. "Your majesty," he tried.
Anna and Kristoff pulled quickly away.
"I'm sorry for the intrusion.. It's-" Kai straightened. "It's your sister, your majesty... Your sister has returned home."
Blue eyes widened to the point of strain. "Elsa…" Anna sighed, and her feet carried her into a sprint.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time. Due to some personal matters regarding the pandemic, I needed to take a brief week away from this fast-pace story. I am back now and ready with a few edited chapters. You can expect two this week, and one more the following weekend. While I am trying to get things straightened out in my own life, I wanted to make sure I still had content coming in for all my readers.
I'm keeping you all close to my heart as we weather this storm together.
Chapter 21: Part Three - A Bridge Between
Where Magic Flows
Part Three: A Bridge Between
All she could hear was the thundering of her own feet as she sprinted across the courtyard. Anna was there and running toward her. Her arms outstretched. Tears descended her freckled cheeks. Red hair matted to her face and she caught Elsa in a tight hug.
"Elsa," Anna breathed.
Elsa felt her own eyes well. They fell to the top of Anna's head, but she knew her sister wouldn't mind.
Sniffling, Anna pulled back. Her hands held their grip on Elsa's arms. "Where have you been? What's going on? You saved Kristoff, but Ryder said-"
As if on queue, the younger brother had been beckoned. Elsa looked over her shoulder to find Honeymaren and Ryder amidst a similar reunion.
She turned back to Anna. "We should talk about this inside…"
She took Anna under her arm, guiding her back toward the open gates. Elsa could hear Ryder chatting excitedly behind her. The two followed the sisters inside where Elsa was immediately pulled into another embrace.
"I don't care where you're living," it was Gerda. She pulled back enough to flash Elsa a glare. "I hear everything that goes on around here, you know? If you don't start taking care of yourself, I will have Kai drag you straight back to Arendelle! Mark my words, miss!"
Blushing, Elsa emitted a small giggle. "Don't worry, I understand…"
"Elsa!" Someone shouted from above their heads.
As she looked up, Elsa could see Kristoff slowly making his way down the stairs. Anna quickly ran to his side, and Elsa knew he must still be recovering.
She met him at the base of the steps. "I'm so glad you're alright!" Elsa accepted his hug.
Kristoff held her for a moment longer than he usually would. When he released her, he stepped back. His pale complexion remained. The skin beneath his eyes was still swollen and he swayed as he placed his arm over Anna's shoulders for support.
"What's happening out there?" he asked. His brow furrowed.
Elsa's eyes scanned the hall. "Why don't we move this conversation somewhere more comfortable? Actually…" she turned to Gerda. "Honeymaren and I could really use something to eat."
She briefly met Honeymaren's tired gaze. She appeared grateful, however her sadness from earlier maintained. Honeymaren's lips pursed and she nodded in thanks.
"Of course, Miss Elsa. I'll set up in the dining hall straight away!"
Elsa watched Gerda go. She turned back to the group and motioned for them to lead after her. Wordlessly, they did as directed. When Honeymaren turned to follow, Elsa gently caught her arm. Her hand retracted as soon as she stopped, and it fell back cautiously at her side.
"I can have something sent up to the guest rooms if you'd prefer to lie down."
Honeymaren contemplated her for a moment. Her eyes lowered as Elsa averted her gaze. "I'll eat with you and the others. I should help fill them in on what's been going on as well."
Though she wasn't thrilled with her response, Elsa accepted it. She allowed Honeymaren to pass through the door to the dining hall first, and take a seat next to Ryder. Elsa chose the chair across from her. She sat at Kristoff's left, diagonal from where Anna had taken the head of the table.
Her hands fidgeted in her lap as she looked down at them. "So…" Anna sang.
Kristoff's hand, hidden by the table, joined at Anna's knee. She smiled at him. Her fingers slipped beneath his and she squeezed them affectionately.
"Why does this feel awkward?" Ryder attempted to whisper to his sister.
The table began to laugh. Anna laughed hard enough that tears slipped down her cheeks again. Honeymaren smacked Ryder in the chest before taking his arm in hers.
"Sorry…" he mumbled and hid his blush. "It really is, though."
Gerda broke the tension when she returned with her arms full. She carried a tray filled with danish and a fresh pot of tea. She set it at the center of the table, moving in to pour their mugs.
"I've got it, Gerda." Elsa offered and stood.
"There's more coming… Everyone here is much too skinny for my liking!" she tutted. Gerda's hand touched to Elsa's shoulder before she headed back into the kitchen.
After Elsa served the tea and doled out the danish, she returned to her seat. She couldn't help but smile at Honeymaren and Ryder. Both looked down at their plate with dramatically confused faces.
"They're called danish," she explained. "Our bakers from Denmark sell them down in the village… They won't hurt you, I promise."
Tentatively, Honeymaren lifted the pastry to her lips. She took a small bite and her brown eyes enlarged. "It's jam!" she nudged Ryder.
He took his first bite as well. Soon he was wearing the same look of excitement and reaching for a second one.
"Ryder's been getting the whole Arendelle experience." Anna said as she turned her attention to Elsa. "Mattias had him helping out the Royal Guard. He's a natural at weapons' repair."
Ryder's blush darkened proudly. "Nah, it's nothing really… Arendelle has faster tools than we do in Northuldra."
"Speaking of Northuldra…" Honeymaren forced Ryder's stare. "How are Yelena and the others? Did you get them the amulets?"
He nodded and swallowed a large bite. "We sent Mattias' scout up to the North Mountain. He brought back Hilf and they've been investigating the mercury issue."
"That's right," Anna pointed. "You haven't heard about that yet."
Elsa shook her head. "I've been to Ahtohallan… I know more than I want to admit, but for starters- it's imperative we keep travel out of Arendelle to a minimum. Limit the roadways to guards and scouts only. Civilians should remain in the village until we've sorted out how to move forward. I'm afraid the journey out of town may not be safe…"
Frowning, Anna sat forward. "What do you mean?"
Elsa sighed. Her fingers brushed through her hair. "...where to begin…"
Over food and tea, Elsa filled her family in on what they'd learned. Honeymaren added details as needed- which did not go unnoticed by Arendelle's new queen. Anna ignored her suspicions, however, listening intently to what they had to say. With every detail laid out in front of her, Anna's concerns continued to multiply.
"You both took on those mages all on your own?" Her blue eyes held wide.
"Only Cleyo has magic. The other mages use the amulets to deflect mine." Elsa pulled the brim of the tea cup against her lips.
"They may not have powers, but they're not weak- that's for sure. I'm going to have a boot print embedded in my ribs for the next month!" Honeymaren groaned.
"Please remind me to take a look at that later…" Elsa met her eyes before turning back to her tea.
"So this Cleyo…" Anna's brow arched.
"She's scary…" Ryder grimaced.
"-but she's after what? Arendelle?" Anna asked, leaning her chin into her palm.
Honeymaren and Elsa exchanged another look. This time it was Honeymaren who turned away.
"Her motives are mostly...unclear." Elsa began. "She's upset and she feels abandoned by Arendelle. She's mad at mother and father for terminating her back when they closed the gates. I'm afraid she's had eyes on the kingdom for longer than any of us could have known. Cleyo and the mages- they learned of Ahtohallan… We think she believed it held answers about her past; perhaps information about how she could use Ahtohallan to her benefit. She led us to believe she would drain the glacier of its magic, but it doesn't work that way… It seems more likely now that Cleyo was only after information about how she came to be the way she is…"
"-and unfortunately…" Honeymaren continued for her. "What we learned wasn't… it wasn't kind… While rage brought Cleyo back to Arendelle all those years ago, it was her own curiosity that had her targeting Ahtohallan instead. Now with that curiosity squandered… I'm afraid Arendelle will be her main target once again…"
"That's why she sought out the alliance with Westleton…" Anna hummed.
"I'm afraid so…" Elsa pushed back into her chair. Her arms folded protectively over her chest.
"Perhaps it's best to deal with Russave and Westleton before Cleyo's return, then?"
Kristoff had turned to Anna sharply as she spoke.
Elsa sighed. She pulled her hands soothing down from her shoulders. "I'm not sure we want to exhaust Arendelle's resources before Cleyo arrives…"
"From the sounds of it, Cleyo is a lot like you, Elsa. I'm not sure Arendelle even has the power or strength to take someone like her on."
Meeting her sister's eyes Elsa bit her lip. "I know… I just- I'll have to come up with something…"
"Arendelle's not your responsibility anymore, you know? I mean, not really anyway."
Her brows lowered. "Meaning?" Elsa asked.
"It's my responsibility to make decisions for Arendelle. While we are powerless against Cleyo, I can handle our foreign dignitaries."
As her expression continued to deepen, Elsa's hands clasped tighter in her lap. "I'd argue that Arendelle is still just as much my responsibility now as it was when I was queen. Arendelle is my home, Anna… That hasn't changed because I'm living someplace else now."
Anna's face mimicked Elsa's. "I never said it did. I just don't think it's fair that you come back here after all these weeks and demand to call the shots!"
"Woah! How did I do that?" Elsa's eyes enlarged.
"When you said you would figure something out! I'm the queen of Arendelle now, Elsa! I will make the plans for how we should respond to the invasion!"
"Well, this conversation certain took a turn…" Once again, Ryder's whispers were overheard by the entire table.
Kristoff leaned forward and rested a hand on Anna's shoulder. "Ryder's right… Neither of you are acting like yourselves right now… tensions are high. You're exhausted. Why don't we pick this up later when you've both had a chance to rest?"
Anna swiftly stood from her chair, pulling angrily from Kristoff's touch. "None of this matters anyway. I have a meeting to attend to."
Both Kristoff and Elsa's voices surfaced at the same time.
"The meeting to discuss how Arendelle will move forward against the invasion." Anna explained dryly. Her arms crossed as she stood at the head of the table. "They didn't respond to our call for a negotiation. Therefore, I will be meeting with them myself out on the fjord."
"Anna!" Elsa found herself standing, too. "Be reasonable! We have to think about this first."
"I have been, Elsa! For the last three days, I have been thinking about this! I've been planning, and discussing, and doing everything I can to keep Arendelle safe. While you weren't here, I did my job! You can't come back now and demand I stop doing it!"
She turned from the table. Anna kept her back to the group as she marched toward the door.
"Anna, wait!" Elsa pleaded and moved to follow.
Kristoff stood, catching her arm. "Let me handle this," he sighed.
Elsa stared at him for a brief moment. Her eyes screamed of sadness, but also understanding. Finally, she nodded. Elsa watched Kristoff make his way from the room and disappear behind the wall. Only then did Elsa fall back into her chair. Her head tipped forward and she caught it deftly in her hands.
"On the bright side… family dinners in Arendelle are way more entertaining than the ones we have back in Northuldra…" Ryder sang.
Honeymaren ribbed him and silenced her brother with a stern glare. After he'd shrunken down two sizes, her attention turned back to the broken woman across from them.
"Elsa…" she whispered.
Blue eyes raised. Elsa's face was stern. She stood again and her arms crossed over her chest.
"I'll have Gerda show you where you'll be staying." Her voice was void of any emotion.
Honeymaren moved to follow her, but Elsa quickly raised her hand. When she left the room, Honeymaren remained frozen against her feet. She was frowning, and her eyes slightly glazed.
"There's something going on between the two of you…"
Her attention snapped to Ryder.
"I'm just saying…" his hands raised in surrender. "-the last time I saw you, there were a lot of feelings floating around in the air…"
Glaring again, Honeymaren turned away. "Leave it be, Ry." she commanded him with a whisper.
With a deep breath, she sheltered herself in her arms and stole quickly from the room.
Up on the second floor, Elsa was seated outside of Anna and Kristoff's bedroom. Her head had fallen back against the door. Her eyes held closed. She listened as her sister and brother-in-law grew harsher with their words.
She hadn't meant to start a fight between them. In fact, Elsa hadn't meant for this to be a fight at all. She and Anna rarely butt heads. It was Anna who was often the more collected of the two sisters. She was always willing to work through their issues and come to some sort of an agreement.
Maybe Kristoff was right, though. Perhaps they had been too tired, and their combined stress certainly didn't help matters much. Moving forward, Elsa knew she should tread lightly. She needed Anna, just like Anna needed her. They could only face this challenge if they did it together. That was the way they did everything these days.
Elsa was started to her feet as the door was forced open behind her. Kristoff nearly stumbled into her. He jumped back with his brows high and his chest reeling.
"Sorry…" Elsa blushed. Her hands caught at her waist.
His face softened instantly. "I- I don't think she's quite ready yet…" He explained, and Kristoff's eyes fell uncomfortably to their feet.
"Could I try?" she asked. Elsa offered him a small smile.
"Go right ahead," he waved her forward. "Who knows, maybe you'll have better luck than me…"
Elsa squeezed Kristoff's hand as she passed through the door. He shut it silently behind her.
Her eyes then scanned the room. A flash of red hair on the balcony caught her attention and she slowly made her way toward it.
With a raised fist, she knocked against the glass. It felt silly, but it was their thing. Hearing it though, Anna didn't respond. Elsa told herself she expected that. Instead of dwelling, she forced in a deep breath, and opened the door anyway.
She came to stand beside her. Elsa's eyes followed Anna's and they both stared out at the overrun fjord.
"Hi…" Elsa whispered, after a long moment had passed between them.
"Hello." Anna dryly replied.
Sighing, Elsa stepped in closer. "Anna, listen… I'm sorry for what I said… I don't want to fight, and I didn't mean to step on your toes. I know you're the queen of Arendelle now and I will follow whatever decision you believe is best."
Anna said nothing. Her hands continued to grip the rail. Elsa's eyes pulled back from the fjord and she turned to her.
"Anna, please… don't shut me out."
Slowly, she extended her hand to her. Elsa's fingers hovered over the rail before settling over Anna's freckled ones. She squeezed them lightly.
"Shutting people is your moctus operande…" Anna softly laughed.
"I must be rubbing off on you after all these years…" Elsa teased and her arm brushed into Anna's.
Anna turned to her. Their conjoined hands swung between them. "I'm sorry, too. You were just trying to help, and I was jumping to conclusions…"
"No, but you were right… I need to respect your title as everyone else does."
Anna giggled and shook her head. "No you don't… you're my sister. If anyone has the right to put me in my place sometimes… it's you, Elsa."
She pulled her into a hug. Anna's head rested against Elsa's bare shoulder.
"We do this together, Anna." she whispered. "-just like everything else. We're the bridge, remember?"
Smiling, Anna pulled back. "You're right. I'm sorry we fought… I just missed you, and I've been scared…"
"Me too," Elsa brushed back Anna's hair.
"I guess I was also feeling a little bummed out… You and Honeymaren had this big adventure, and for the first time… I wasn't a part of it."
"You don't have to worry about that." She nudged Anna's cheek. "Unfortunately, this adventure is far from over, and we're here now… we're all about to be a part of it."
Anna sighed. She looked down at her feet. Her hands pulled from Elsa's and she bit down on her lip.
"Now, about that meeting…" Elsa's voice sang.
She shook her head. "I had Kristoff call it off. You're here now- that changes things… Why don't we talk about this more after dinner?"
Elsa nodded. "That sounds perfect. I should rest for a bit, and I need to check on Honeymaren… I was rude to her before…" She hid her blush into her shoulder.
Blue eyes thoughtfully traced Elsa's face. Anna studied her before smiling. "You do that…" she whispered knowingly.
Elsa frowned as Anna directed her back into the bedroom. Kristoff was there and waiting respectfully by the door. He appeared hopeful with his attention raised at the two sisters.
"Are we all good now?" he asked with a quirk of his brow.
Anna laughed. She squeezed Elsa's shoulder and nudged her toward the door. "Yes, we're all good now."
Playfully rolling her eyes, Elsa left the room. She offered Kristoff a confused shrug, and kept her shoulders raised into her ears. Elsa hadn't made it more than a few steps away before she heard Anna shriek.
"I knew it! I knew it! I told you so, I knew it!"
Though curious, Elsa ignored her sister's excitement. Shaking her head, she continued down the hall toward the guest wing. There, she found Gerda approaching, heading back to the main stairs.
"Is Honeymaren taken care of?" she asked, stopping briefly at her side.
Gerda nodded. "I put her next to the study. Her brother has been staying in the room across the hall. I thought that might make her more comfortable."
"Thank you," Elsa smiled kindly.
She offered a quick slight of her head before continuing on her way. Elsa waited for Gerda to round the corner. Once she had, she slowly approached Honeymaren's door.
She hesitated. Her hand froze before the rosemaling. Elsa couldn't be certain why, but it felt strange to have Honeymaren saying here. Their relationship had changed drastically in the short span of a week. They were still friends. That much was true, but the rest of it was more than complicated.
Finally, and with a sigh, she brought herself to knock. Elsa stepped back and listened as Honeymaren fumbled on the other side of the wall. It took a minute before the door was thrown open to her. Honeymaren stood in the archway, appearing confused and winded.
She had stripped down from her over-clothes. The appearance of her in only a thin white slip caused Elsa to blush madly.
"I- I'm so sorry…" she turned away. "I just wanted to make sure you were settled."
She turned to see Honeymaren frown.
"Why are you blushing?" lips quirking, she smirked at Elsa's embarrassed display.
"You were going to bed… I'm sorry…"
"Elsa…" Honeymaren said again. "It's fine… Would you like to come in for a moment?"
Stepping back from the doorway, Honeymaren's hands clasped at her waist. Meanwhile, Elsa continued to stare. Her eyes scanned between the barren hall and the room before her.
With a sigh, she obliged. Elsa slid into the room, and Honeymaren closed the door behind her. She moved no further than the entryway. Honeymaren decidedly left her there as she clambered onto the bed. She turned onto her side and watched Elsa with her head snuggled back into the pillows.
"It looks like you've settled yourself in just fine, then?" her arms crossed.
Honeymaren yawned and nodded. "This bed is wonderful… and the room… I don't know how you can stand being in a hut in Northuldra."
"I prefer simple." Elsa shrugged. Her feet itched to move forward, but she dutifully held her stance.
"Did you work things out with Anna?" she tiredly asked.
"We did. There's still more to discuss, but for now… everything's back to normal." Elsa's fingers flexed uncomfortably as they gripped tighter around her upper arms. "I'm here because I wanted to make sure you were alright. I know we have more that needs to be said about earlier, and I wanted to apologize for being rude to you downstairs. I shouldn't have taken my frustrations out on you when you were only trying to help. That wasn't fair of me, and I'm sorry-"
"Elsa…" Honeymaren yawned again.
Elsa's head tilted, hearing her whisper.
"We don't need to talk about anything right now. I'm not upset- just tired…"
Stiffening, Elsa nodded. "Of course, I- I'll let you rest…"
She tried to smile, but failed; and instead turned toward the door.
"Elsa…" Honeymaren called out to her once more.
Slowly, Elsa turned back. Her hand stuck to the handle, and her brow furrowed as Honeymaren sat up.
"Join me?" she simply said.
The request had Elsa shivering. Her heart rate increased and her eyes widened in shock; but then Honeymaren extended her hand.
Elsa's feet responded before her mind had collected. She followed them across the room, coming to a halt at the side of the bed. Tentatively, her fingers slipped into Honeymaren's. Elsa kicked off her sandals as she was pulled forward onto the sheets.
When she was directed onto her back, Honeymaren's head joined against her chest. Her arm extended over Elsa's waist, and their feet tangled.
It took Elsa a moment before she could relax. She was certain Honeymaren could hear her erratic heart, and feel the uncharacteristic heat of her skin. However, when Honeymaren drifted off, which didn't take long; she felt herself quickly following. Just before she, too, fell asleep- Elsa's arms pulled tight around Honeymaren's shoulders.
Where Magic Flows
Lay the Answers: Part One
A knock at the door had Honeymaren rolling onto the floor with a yelp. Her shoulder bruised against the hardwood and she looked up mournfully at the bed. How had she gotten down here?
"Is everything alright in there, miss?"
It was Gerda from the hall. She sounded apologetic, and Honeymaren blushed when she heard her voice. She was hoping to adapt to life in Arendelle better for Elsa's sake. She didn't want to do anything that might embarrass her.
"Um, yeah- I mean yes, thank you! Everything's fine!" She returned to her feet, running a hand through her tangles of brown hair.
"I've come to let you know dinner will be served at seven. I hope that gives you enough time to prepare."
Prepare? Honeymaren frowned, pulling her brow low in contemplation.
She shook her head to clear the thoughts. Blinking, her eyes turned to Elsa who was surprisingly still asleep; dead asleep, and taking over most of where Honeymaren had laid minutes before.
"I-uh, thank you!" she quickly called to Gerda. "I'll be there…"
Her feet were heard moving away from the door. Honeymaren's heart rate returned to normal as she soothed a hand over her chest. Feeling the ache in her shoulder, she looked down at the spot. It was red and would certainly be quite an attractive bruise within a few days.
Ignoring it, her attention pulled back to Elsa. She looked peaceful as she slept, and Honeymaren hated the idea of waking her. She was curled onto her side with her mouth slightly parted. Her breathing was shallow. Her expression was calm. In that moment, Honeymaren wanted nothing more than to fall back to sleep beside her.
She knew that couldn't happen, though. Arendelle's affairs took priority, but she would happily keep the visual stored amongst the folds of her brain until they could be this way together again.
With a sigh, she clambered back onto the bed and kneeled before Elsa. Her fingers combed through blonde hair as if savouring each strand. Her nose scrunched, but Elsa wouldn't rouse. This was completely unlike the light-sleeping woman Honeymaren had come to know. It only further proved how exhausted she'd assumed Elsa must be.
Feeling daring, she ran her thumb along Elsa's bottom lip. Her blonde brows pinched, and so, Honeymaren did it again. When two wide blue eyes were finally looking back at her, she pulled her hand away. Honeymaren smiled and emitted a small laugh.
"I'm sorry to wake you," she whispered. "Gerda came by to let us know dinner would be served at seven."
Elsa suddenly sprang forward onto her rear. "She came in here? What did you say? What did she do?"
Her panicked stricken face had Honeymaren giggling more. "Relax… she stood outside the door. No one knows you're in here with me..."
Elsa turned, hiding her blush. Only when her complexion cooled did she turn back. "I-I'm sorry… I didn't mean to offend to you, of course..."
"Of course…" Honeymaren smirked.
"No, no, don't misunderstand me- I don't understand myself! I'd just meant… I don't want to explain to anyone what's been going on between us right now… The timing is…" Her voice trailed off in embarrassment.
Shrugging, Honeymaren folded her legs and straightened her back. "Elsa, it's okay… I get it. Now is not the time… It's hard to digest anything under these circumstances. That's probably why your sister didn't tell you her big news either."
Elsa grumbled as she curled onto her side. "I wish she would… then I could scold her for acting so carelessly right now."
Honeymaren came to face her. She hid her mane of chocolate curls behind her ear. "It's been one crisis after another here in Arendelle, just as it has in the forest… I imagine she's acting as cautiously as she can. You know, given the circumstances."
Elsa slowly smiled at her. "I know… I do understand… but with our... situation- I don't want you to think I'm embarrassed or ashamed to be here with you. I'm happy here…" her cheeks darkened. "-but I don't think I have the right to feel happy right now; not until everything has settled down."
Her lips pursed and pulled to the side. "I don't know that I believe that... " Honeymaren hummed. "You feel happiness when it happens, though I can understand wanting to wait to share that feeling with other people."
Tentatively, Elsa reached out. Her fingers skimmed the length of Honeymaren's arm and she frowned. "Did the mages do this to you?"
Honeymaren looked down and sheepishly shook her head. "I, uh- no. I fell off the bed…"
She was silent for a moment until a short burst of laughter escaped her throat. "I would have loved to see that!"
"Tough luck…" Honeymaren fought. "Someone was too busy sleeping…"
She shivered as Elsa's fingers continued down to her hip. With wide eyes she watched her tug at the loose fabric along her waist.
"May I see what happened to you during the fight?"
Honeymaren nodded in understanding. She rolled onto her back and pulled up her shirt to rest below her chest. Elsa's hand froze midair. She blushed and slowly sat up.
"Your skin is beautiful…" she found herself saying.
"Really?" Honeymaren laughed. "I've always preferred yours to mine. It sparkles in the sun like fresh snow."
Elsa ignored the compliment. She bit down on her lip as she extended her hand over Honeymaren's waist. Her fingers stilled against tan ribs and shielded the rapidly darkening bruise. Goosebumps broke out beneath her touch. Honeymaren's eyes instantly widened. Magic slithered across her skin, coating the purple surface in a thin layer of ice.
"Strange…" Elsa mused. She pulled her hand back to her lap.
Honeymaren released her shirt before propping up on her elbows. "What's strange?"
"My magic didn't work on you before… and now it has."
"That's because," Honeymaren sat up and took Elsa's hands. "-you used your powers with the intent to help me."
Elsa's eyes lowered. "Is that so?" she smirked. "It appears you know everything now, then."
Honeymaren shrugged. "I know enough."
She raised their conjoined hands and brushed Elsa's cheek with her knuckles. Elsa's brows slightly lifted. Honeymaren smiled as she did it again.
"Tell me something," she asked, and Elsa nodded. "Why are you afraid of me right now?"
In an instant, Elsa was glaring. "I really don't like this new ability of yours." Yet instead of pulling away, she tightened her fingers around Honeymaren's and lowered them back to her lap. "Can't you tell, though?"
She shook her head. "With you… it's different. I sense your emotion, but not the reasoning behind them… Ahtohallan was different for me. Everything felt heightened there. It was like being constantly bombarded with feelings and thoughts… It was all so...overwhelming..."
Elsa chewed on her inner-cheek. Her attention briefly-flattered. "I suppose I'm afraid for many reasons, then…"
"Will you tell me?"
Her expression tightened. "I will… if you promise me there will be no judgement."
Honeymaren rolled her eyes. "When have I ever judged you before, and why would I start now?"
Elsa was silent for a moment. She casually played with Honeymaren's fingers as she thought. Finally when she spoke, Elsa brought their eyes together.
"I'm afraid because... I like this… I enjoy being with you, like this- I suppose I realized that the night you got hurt down by the river. However, I also know I can hurt you…. And more so now, and differently, than I could before. That's not an easy thought for me to wrap my head around…
"And I find I'm afraid to lose you, or leave you, even… if anything went wrong… I'm also afraid of being with you, and not being with you. I'm afraid for my sister as well, and my family. There's a lot of fear right now, but many other emotions, too. I suppose I'm really just as overwhelmed as you are..."
Honeymaren stifled a breath before nodding. "I understand, Elsa… I do."
"You do?" her eyes lowered.
She pulled her hand away, not missing how Elsa shivered at the loss of contact. "Of course I do… it's not everyday you get what you've always dreamed of… Unfortunately when I did, it was on the cusp of a time where I could lose it all just as quickly as it happened. It's as if the universe thought to teach me a lesson for responding to my desires..."
"What do you mean?" Elsa's eyebrows touched at the center of her face. "What dreams?"
Honeymaren's fingers returned to hers. "You, Elsa… You know this… I've dreamed of being able to freely love you."
Blue eyes briefly widened before they softened and turned up at their ends. Elsa's blush gave way to a small grin. "I do love you, too," she breathed.
Honeymaren's smile could have blocked out the sun. Her hand pulled from Elsa's and she caressed her cheek. "May I please kiss you again?"
Elsa's breathing hitched, but she nodded anyway.
Drawing up onto one arm, Honeymaren felt the ice on her side shift. She leaned down, her hand holding Elsa in place. Her gaze was tentative as she slowly lowered toward her. Honeymaren's lips softly brushed against hers and her heart lurched when she felt Elsa leaning back into their kiss.
It was difficult to hide the smile she wore as the two walked down to the dining hall together. Honeymaren was dressed in clothes from storage while her tunic and pants were cleaned by the staff. To Elsa, she looked almost ethereal in the red satin robe and brown undercoat. Her hair was down, too. Elsa had seen it that way before, but the combination of dark curls against red fabric had her feeling giddy.
Elsa pulled her stoic expression back into place as they entered the hall. Both women were surprised to find the table occupied by two more guests. Mattias had arrived and sat at Kristoff's right. Hildr joined them as well, sitting himself beside Ryder. Silently, and while avoiding Anna's suspicious gaze, Honeymaren and Elsa took the two seats that had been left for them. They were sandwiched together between Anna and Ryder, leaving their arms brushing as they sat.
"What took you both so long?" Anna sang.
Elsa remained passive. "Honeymaren's clothes required cleaning. I apologize for the delay."
Her blue eyes rolled in disbelief. Anna sat forward and placed her chin on the top of her hands. "No worries... Honeymaren, you look beautiful. Doesn't she, Elsa?" Anna did not wait for her sister's reply. "-and I hope neither of you mind me inviting more guests this evening?"
"Of course not," Elsa smiled. "I'm happy to see everyone doing well."
She took a sip from her water glass and her eyes scanned the party. Everyone appeared tense; drained, even. Cleyo had already exhausted the greatest leaders in both Arendelle and Northuldra. It seemed her years of spying on them had worked in her benefit.
"I've already filled Hildr and General Mattias in on your updates." Anna shortly explained. "I figured that would speed things up a bit so we could focus on moving forward."
"Her majesty tells me that while King Francis Westleton has made his presence known here, he acts merely as a pawn for a mage by the name of Cleyo?" Mattias' eyes lowered to her.
Elsa nodded. "I'm afraid so… while Russave's and Whestleton's forces are of a concern in regards to their numbers; it's Cleyo who should be Arendelle's primary focus."
Any following response was cut short by Gerda's entrance. She and the royal servants dolled out their meal and poured the wine. Elsa could see Honeymaren fidget beside her. She was visibly uncomfortable with being catered to. Unfortunately, that was life in a castle, and for the time being' she would have to get used to it.
Over food, their conversations continued. Hildr prompted them with the knowledge that the red dust found by where the Earth Giants had stirred- contained the similar properties to the amulet he'd received from Ryder.
"Its natural energy is much higher than what we have available to us in this part of the world. It's made of a mixture of both cinnabar, and a gemstone called tourmaline. Its purpose is to deflect, as well as heighten, the other energy fields it comes in contact with, and sometimes to the point of chaos; as we've seen with the spirits."
"The amulets disrupt Elsa's powers, too." Honeymaren explained as she turned to Hildr.
"Yes, I imagine tourmaline channels the energy behind her emotions and acts like a shield between her and the life force of Ahtohallan." He hummed idly in thought.
"That's how Cleyo overpowered you?" Ryder frowned, his attention turning between Elsa and Honeymaren.
"Initially, yes, but then they had Kristoff and that changed the situation for us as well." Lips pursing, Elsa offered Kristoff a small shrug.
"So, let me get this straight…" Anna leaned against her elbow with the water glass suspended in her hand. "Cleyo is our greatest threat, but even our best weapon doesn't stand a chance against her?"
Elsa playfully lowered her eyes. "Did you just call me a weapon?"
"It's a figure of speech!" Anna defended, and Elsa laughed.
"Anna's right, though…. How do we keep Cleyo from burning Arendelle to the ground, and Westleton from invading- if Elsa can't even defend us?" Kristoff directed them back on topic.
"I stand by dealing with Cleyo first," Elsa continued. "Francis won't make his move until prompted. He's Cleyo's buffer; her distraction, really. And besides, Arendelle isn't her main target anyway."
Anna frowned, shaking her head. "What do you mean? I thought Cleyo wanted to rule Arendelle with Francis as her king? If Arendelle's not her target, what is?"
Honeymaren and Elsa exchanged a brief glance. Drawing her shoulders back, Elsa sighed. "You are."
The table collectively stiffened. All eyes snapped to Elsa.
"What?" Kristoff demanded.
"Technically... Cleyo doesn't want revenge against Arendelle… She wants to seek justice from our family-"
"You see, it's more likely she wants to strip Elsa of everything human, just as she feels was done to her in the past." Honeymaren added.
Both Kristoff and Anna blinked. He tried to catch her gaze, but Anna wouldn't have it.
"We double our efforts." Mattias assured. "I can have the entire guard set up as your first line of defense."
Anna immediately shook her head. "That would leave the rest of Arendelle open to Westleton's siege… I still think Elsa and I should meet with Francis before we start lining out men into battle formation."
Elsa cringed. She turned to Anna sheepishly. "If I could…" she tried.
Anna smiled at her sister's hesitation. "Go right ahead. Speak freely…"
Nodding in thanks, Elsa released a deep breath. "Westleton is not going to respond to Arendelle's negotiations. He is banking on Cleyo removing our family from power so he can easily take over."
"-and we're back to Cleyo again…" Ryder rolled his eyes and shoveled down a fork-full of food.
"I have to say it…" Elsa's attention was held at her plate. Her hands balled into fists.
"Let's hear it," Kristoff prompted. "We have to work with what we've got."
Elsa was silent for a moment. Finally when she looked up, her expression had hardened. "I will face Cleyo."
"Are you crazy?"
Everyone's responses echoed all at once.
Elsa shook her head to silence them.
"It's the same plan we had for Westleton, but with Cleyo instead. I'll send Gale to ask her to meet with me on her own on neutral ground."
"-but Elsa…" Honeymaren cut in. "She doesn't want to talk! You know this! She only wants revenge!"
"I agree with Honeymaren. There's no room for negotiation with Cleyo. She wants us dead and we'd kinda like to live…" Anna continued.
Elsa stifled a groan, massaging her fingers into her temple. "Any negotiation we come to with Westleton cannot be trusted until Cleyo is dealt with either!"
"So, both these conversations are pointless…"
The table silenced as they thought. Food pushed around plates and wine goblets emptied. At the end of their meal, they were exactly where they had started.
"I have one last suggestion…" Elsa dejectedly whispered.
Sensing her shift in emotions, Honeymaren's hand clamped down onto Elsa's knee. Her eyes widened and she forced herself quickly away from the table.
"No!" she growled. Her arms crossed and she stood. "I knew it! I knew you would argue something like this the whole time!"
Elsa leveled her with a stern glare. "Don't begin to assume anything," she said before turning back to the table.
"Cleyo is enticed by the challenge of besting me. It's half the fun for her," she continued. "I'm suggesting...a final battle between her and I and-"
"Elsa, what? No!" Anna yelled.
Elsa raised her hand. "It's merely a prompt- a jest. It'll provoke her to meet with me one on one. From there, I'll work with reason instead. If I can talk her down-"
"-and if that doesn't work?" Kristoff's brow arched.
"-then we take the battle to her," she finished.
Mattias shook his head. "I'm sorry, but what of the fjord? If I've relocated our army to take on Cleyo, then we are really leaving Arendelle at risk."
"Anna and Kristoff will send word to Westleton that negotiations are now off the table. They had their chance, but now it's time to move forward."
Ryder frowned. He felt his sister shift at his back as he turned his attention to Elsa. "Won't that only provoke them further?"
Lips twitching, Elsa smirked. "Luckily, I can make their attempt to siege Arendelle more difficult." She wiggled her fingers at him. "If we safehaven Arendelle temporarily behind ice, I can take on Cleyo and bring her down to size before we even have to worry about Francis or Russave."
Anna sighed. Her eyes met Elsa's. "I don't like this… I don't like it one bit..."
"I don't either," she agreed. "-but I'm afraid we're out of other options."
"-but to face her alone…" Hildr interjected. "Knowing she has the mechanics to take on your powers... she very well may render you defenseless before a negotiation can even begin."
Elsa bit her lip and her brow furrowed. "She comes alone or the plan is off. I have the spirits as my eyes, but as far as our powers go… we're an even match."
"And by that you mean, you don't plan to take me with you either?" Honeymaren fought and returned to stand at Elsa's side.
Her eyes were dark. Anger laced through her skin, showing itself in deep wrinkled lines across her forehead. Elsa found herself turning away.
"Alone means alone. I must follow the same terms I put in place for her-"
"-but I can help you!" Honeymaren's fist came down on the table between them as she sat.
"Honeymaren, enough…" Elsa leveled at a whisper.
"You two, take it easy!" Anna reigned.
"Yeah, Mare," Ryder boasted. "Besides, how are you going to help? Cleyo has flame powers and her anger is a little out of control… better step back and let the spirits take on this one."
Shaking her head, Elsa sought Honeymaren's gaze. She was silently begging her to keep quiet; daring her even, to divulge their shared secret.
"Why don't we sleep on it?" Anna suggested, seeing the hostilities growing between the two women.
Her attention slowly pulled from Honeymaren's, expression strict until the moment she looked at Anna. "-because Northuldra is less than a full day's ride from here. Cleyo could be anywhere at this point. We want to make our stance known before she can get the jump on us." Elsa explained to her.
"I agree with Elsa." Mattias nodded. "It's best to iron out the plan now before Cleyo makes plans to attack Arendelle regardless."
"I hate to be that guy…" Kristoff's eyes fluttered to his hands. "-but what if she attacks anyway?"
Elsa and Anna turned to each other. Their eyes met and they shared a small nod.
"If Cleyo attacks Arendelle…. Then Arendelle fights back." It was Anna who responded. "We fight until we can't anymore."
Reaching across the table, Elsa took her sister's hand. "I'm with you."
"- and I with you… We do this together."
The next chapter contains adult content- ratings apply from here on out.
Stay safe and healthy.
Chapter 23: Part Two - Lay the Answers
Where Magic Flows
Lay the Answers: Part Two
Lifting her hand to the air, Gale carried the letter away from the balcony. As they stood side by side, Anna and Elsa watched it go. Up into the dark night sky their heed to Cleyo disappeared as it fell to the distance. Their plan was in motion and there was no taking it back now.
Anna's fingers slipped between hers. Together they turned from the railing and headed back inside. While Mattias and Hildr had left, Kristoff and the Natturas remained. Honeymaren watched them from her spot in the doorway. Her arms were folded. The skin of her face had paled and she looked as if anger might burst from the seams of her pursed lips.
Honeymaren barely acknowledged Elsa before spinning on her feet. She left the room at a near stomp and departed to the hallway. The sight of the red lace fluttering away at her feet had Elsa's heart aching. Now wasn't the time to be causing problems between them, but Anna and Elsa were determined to do what they believed was the next right thing.
"You should go talk to her." Anna suggested.
With a slight frown, Elsa sighed. "I will, but there's something I'd like to discuss with you first."
"I've got it," Ryder stuffed his hands into his pockets. "If anyone can handle an angry Nattura, it's a second Nattura in a better mood."
Elsa smiled at him appreciatively. Ryder's shoulders pulled back as he left the room in search of his sister.
"I'll go check in on Sven," Kristoff stepped toward them. He kissed Anna's cheek and gave Elsa's arm a quick squeeze.
"I'll come find you in a few. I love you, honey." She shrugged as he nodded back in reply.
Once they were alone, Elsa returned to the dining table. She fell into a chair and Anna joined at her side. The room was now dimly lit with candles. It was dark and late; but how late- neither were certain.
"What's going on?" Anna whispered, failing to catch her sister's eyes.
Elsa's hands clenched in her lap. She wouldn't look up. "I need you to know… I lied in my letter to Cleyo…"
She felt Anna tense beside her. From the corner of her eye, Elsa could see Anna's chest raise as she reeled in a deep breath.
"Okay…" she sang evenly. "-but you're obviously telling me, which means you weren't lying for my benefit. You were lying for someone else's, so should I guess or are you going to tell me yourself?"
Lifting her head, Elsa's jaw wavered. "I didn't tell Cleyo to meet at the Valley of Living Rock…"
Anna's brows furrowed. "You didn't? That's what we decided..."
"I-I know, and that's why I'm telling you now…" Elsa's lips pulled to the side. She ran a hand soothingly over her long braid. "I've arranged to meet her at the entrance to the forest."
Anna's teeth grit in understanding. "That's the complete opposite direction." Elsa nodded. "But you're telling me this so our plan moves forward as discussed…"
She nodded again. "You'll still wait for my sign if need be…"
"Who is it that you don't want to know?" Anna shook her head and her palms raised. "It's Honeymaren, but why?"
Elsa tried to find the words, but couldn't. 'It's not the right time' rang on repeat between her ears.
"Do you not trust her?" Anna asked. Her forehead wrinkled, already disbelieving the answer she feared.
"Of course I trust her. It's just… I know her. Honeymaren will find her way to me and we can't have that. She needs to be kept safe, even from herself."
Anna tipped her chin as she thought. Blue eyes lowered skeptically toward her sister. "What's going on between the two fo you? Even you have to know that what happened here tonight with her is strange… It's like she read your mind or something? And the way she reacted… I don't understand it."
Stifling a sigh, Elsa bit her lip. "I wish I had the words to explain it to you… Unfortunately, too much has changed lately to know where to begin…"
"-but you're both alright, though?" Anna asked.
"Yes, we're fine, but I need you to promise to hold Honeymaren back…" Elsa's attention diverted. Her eyes scanned the far wall as she avoided her sister's gaze. "Don't let her follow me tomorrow. Don't tell her where I've gone… Please, just trust me... Remember it's for the best, and I will explain everything to you later."
Anna leaned forward in her seat. Her hand came to cover Elsa's. When her attention pulled back to her, Anna smiled. "I trust you, and thank you for trusting me enough to tell me the truth."
"It's for the best." Elsa found herself reiterating. Yet whether that was to convince herself or Anna, she didn't know.
"May I ask you something…" Her finger tapped affectionately against Elsa's knuckle.
Anna's smile widened further. "Do you like her?" she asked and her head tilted.
Elsa held her breath. Her eyes widened and she slowly sat back into her chair. But she couldn't lie to Anna. Elsa never could, and perhaps that's why she'd pushed her away for all those long years.
"I think I do…" she breathed unsteadily. "I mean… I do- I really do… I just, I didn't mean for it to happen, or want it to happen even-"
"It's okay, Elsa. You don't need to explain it to me."
Her fingers closed around Elsa's. With her other hand, Anna reached forward and brushed the fallen blonde hairs from her face.
"Thank you for telling me," she continued. Elsa's stare remained fixed to her face. "I'm happy for you, and you have to know- these things are rarely planned."
Growing uncomfortable, Elsa's back tightened. "We really should continue this conversation another time. It's not important right now."
"-but of course it is." Anna fought. "We're on the brink of war and you're afraid of not being able to keep your loved ones safe. Love is always important, Elsa; more during the bad times than during the moments where we can freely enjoy it… and do you know why?"
Anna's brows lifted and Elsa shook her head.
"-because love is always what sets us apart from our enemies."
Elsa was frowning as Anna's words settled in her ears. "Now doesn't feel like the right time to be dealing with new emotions, is all."
Giggling, Anna squeezed Elsa's hand again. "There is no perfect time, silly… I'll love both you and Kristoff a little differently tonight… because of how thankful I am to have you… Having love during the darkest of times is how we get through them. It makes appreciating the lighter days that much easier, and I'm counting on you to remember that when you lead our first advance against Cleyo."
Elsa smirked. She shook her head. "Maybe I was wrong to question your love expertise, after all?"
"No, you weren't." Anna raised from her chair and pulled Elsa up and into her arms. "-because you, my dear sister, taught me everything about love that I needed to know."
Up on the second floor, another pair of siblings were having quite a different exchange. Honeymaren had closed herself off in the bedroom. Confused but determined, Ryder spoke to her through the wall.
"Come on, Mare… Help me out here! What's going on with you?"
She growled, throwing her head back against the door as she sat. "There's nothing going on!" she fought.
"Why don't you start with explaining to me why you're so angry right now? I know this is about Elsa, I just don't understand why…"
She said nothing, and Ryder sighed. He returned to his feet, splaying his hand against the door. Suddenly a thought formed, though, and he found himself smirking.
"I've seen the way you look at her, you know…" Ryder slowly sang. "My sister… making heart eyes at the fifth spirit… You thought you were being all nonchalant about it, but everyone knew… Honeymaren is in L-O-V-"
The door was swiftly yanked open and Ryder felt hands tightly grip him around the collar. He yelped as Honeymaren glowered down at him.
"Keep quiet!" she scolded. "Are you out of your mind?"
Ryder's smile grew. "Ah… so it appears I was right… All these months I've watched you and thought you were just being clueless, but as it turns out… you do love the Snow Quee-"
Honeymaren's hand quickly clamped over his mouth. She tugged him inside the room before spinning on him.
Her finger raised and directed at his chest. "What do you mean 'all of those months', you dope? That was you! You were the one pining!"
His brow arched. "Was it? I don't know about that… Elsa is nice and everything, but I'm not sure I'm really her type. Besides, call me old-fashioned, but I don't want to step on my older sister's toes."
"What do you mean?" Her eyes continued to lower. "-but you said-"
"Mare, if I hadn't said anything you'd still be in denial over it."
Dropping her jaw slowly, Honeymaren stepped back. "You played me!" she gasped.
"That I did," Ryder's hands perched proudly over his hips. "My sister needed motivating, and there was only one way to do it, I'm afraid."
"Oh my, nature! I could kill you!" Honeymaren lurched forward, and Ryder leapt fearfully out of the way.
She surprised him, though. She caught Ryder in a tight hug and buried her face into his shoulder. "You have no idea how many problems you have caused for me, but I love you for it…" Honeymaren sighed.
Ryder's hands softly combed over his sister's back. "I know, you can thank me later… For now though, why don't we go back to you telling me what's wrong?"
Groaning, Honeymaren dropped her arms from around him. "I wish I could… The timing… it's just not great."
He shrugged and his eyes stayed on hers. "I know, but I think you should at least talk to her before she goes. It's not fair to let her leave for battle with Cleyo while thinking that you're still angry with her."
Honeymaren returned to the bed. She sank down onto the edge and buried her face into her hands. "Well, I am angry! Why isn't everyone else? Elsa is going to get herself killed going up against Cleyo like that, and everyone is so willing to just stand around and let that happen!"
Slowly, Ryder came to sit beside her. "Unfortunately, our other option is to let everyone get killed by Cleyo instead. And letting Elsa talk to her is kind of our best shot at this, Mare. Besides, you know Anna and Kristoff and Mattias would never let anything happen to her. We'll all be ready to step in if and when she needs us. We have to trust her to get us that far…"
He briefly silenced and his head turned.
"Unless… unless that's not why you're really upset with her? Did something else happen between the two of you? Did you ask her out? Did she turn you down? Oh man, I always wanted to be the cool younger brother who kicked peoples' asses when they hurt my sister, but I don't know if I stand a chance against Elsa!"
Honeymaren pushed her arm into his, effectively silencing him. "Shut up, would you?" she teased. "It's nothing like that! I'm just… angry; and for lots of reasons!"
"She's angry with me because Honeymaren doesn't believe I'll use the distress call. She thinks I would sacrifice myself to Cleyo to end the war."
Both their heads snapped up to the doorway. Elsa was there and leaned against the frame. Her arms were crossed. Her lips, pursed. If Ryder wasn't mistaken, he was certain Elsa was a little angry at Honeymaren, too.
They watched as she took a single hesitant step into the light of the small bedroom. Ryder instantly stood. His hands buried into his armpits and he shrugged.
"I'm, uh, I'm gunna go…" he uncomfortably sang as he tiptoed toward the door. "Elsa…" Ryder nodded. "I'll-uh, see you tomorrow before you leave…"
She offered him a quick smile and Ryder cleared the room in record time. He closed the door behind him, leaving Elsa alone with Honeymaren. When she turned, Honeymaren was glaring down at her hands. She refused to look up, though her strict jaw told Elsa that Honeymaren was fighting it.
A tiny sigh escaped her lips. Elsa buried her fears and bridged their distance. Her feet came into view beside Honeymaren's, and her hands wrung at her waist.
"I don't need magical powers to know what you were thinking…" Elsa explained.
"So, this is you admitting it's true, then? Do you plan to sacrifice yourself to Cleyo?" Angry brown eyes tentatively raised to meet soft blues.
"What makes you assume that?" Elsa asked, remaining perfectly still.
Honeymaren shook her head. "I could feel it. That plan came into your mind… You thought it, and then this wave of confidence swept over me. I felt your drive and passion, and your fear… I knew immediately what you were thinking…"
"I'll admit, that idea did cross my mind for a brief moment, but that doesn't mean I intended to move forward with it. I like the plan we've put in place, and I believe in it." Her arms crossed.
Honeymaren eyed her skeptically. Her lips pursed tighter together.
"Listen," Elsa continued. "You're going to have to give me the benefit of the doubt here. I know you think you understand what's going on, but it's not fair for you to make assumptions. It took me years to learn how to control my abilities; to understand them fully… I know you think you know where my head was at that moment… but that's not who I am anymore."
Reaching out, Honeymaren didn't look at her with affection like Elsa had anticipated. Her eyes were still cold and angry.
"Prove it," she demanded.
"What?" Elsa took a step back.
"Show me what you're feeling. Prove to me there's no guilt- no lies!"
Her hand remained in the air between them. Elsa considered it skeptically with her gaze low.
"Would you not trust me if not for Ahtohallan?"
Honeymaren straightened her spine. "If it weren't for Ahtohallan, I wouldn't have felt your sacrifice at all."
Eyes continuing to lower, Elsa returned to where she'd stood before. Her feet planted between Honeymaren's and she pushed her arm aside by the sleeve.
"I'll show you something else, but then you have to make your decision. Choose for yourself what you want to believe."
Her chin raised sharply and sternly. Elsa's teeth grit behind her lips. The expression she wore nearly matched Honeymaren's, but then suddenly it softened. Her blue eyes grew a little wider. They were glazed and appeared scared, even.
With her hands rising to the sides of Honeymaren's face, they began to shake. Elsa's soft fingers laced beneath her jaw and into the soft hair at the base of Honeymaren's neck. She lowered to her slowly. Her heart was in her throat. When her eyes closed, Elsa acted on instinct. She pressed her lips into Honeymaren and dragged her to stand.
Their noses brushed. Elsa's hands tightened their hold. Honeymaren pressed into her and laced her arms behind Elsa's back.
Elsa kissed her until she couldn't think; until her lungs burned, and until something wet brushed against her cheek.
The sensation had her startled and suddenly separating from Honeymaren. Her eyes remained closed as she reached up and touched her own face. The soft pads of her fingers came away damp. She blinked rapidly, staring down at them; wondering when she had started to cry.
But when her attention returned to Honeymaren, Elsa realized it wasn't her eyes that had shed tears. Standing there on shaky legs before her, Honeymaren was crying. Her body shook and she turned her face toward the wall.
"Why are you crying?" Elsa asked her. She stepped closer, but Honeymaren raised her hand.
"It's too much…" she whispered. "What you're feeling right now… It's too much, and I'm experiencing it all…"
Ignoring her hurt, Elsa pushed Honeymaren by the shoulder to sit at the edge of the bed. She stood before her. Her arms crossed and she shook from the shock of their kiss. "What did you feel?"
The veins in Honeymaren's neck bulged. "...enough."
"-but was it guilt there, or shame… or anything besides the love I feel for you?"
Her face turned to the floor.
Elsa looked down at her expectantly. With each silent second that passed between them, she felt herself growing weak. Honeymaren was the strongest, most stoic person she knew. And in the last month, Elsa had seen her more broken and emotional than ever before.
And it was all her fault.
With gentle hands, she forced Honeymaren to look at her. She quickly brushed the tears from her cheeks. When her face was dry, she laced their fingers together. Elsa directed them up to the skin of her pale jaw.
She curled Honeymaren's palm around the side of her throat before allowing her own hand to fall away. "What do you feel?" Elsa asked her again.
When Honeymaren didn't answer, Elsa forced her hand down lower. She didn't stop until tan fingers settled with a slight curl over her heart.
She closed her eyes. "What do you feel?"
Elsa listened as her whisper disintegrated into the room. She felt the warmth of Honeymaren's touch expand throughout her chest. The fingers there seemed to vibrate with each beat of her own heart.
"Fear…" Honeymaren finally responded.
"And?" Elsa prompted. She opened her eyes to see Honeymaren sitting there and biting her lip.
"Love…" she answered again.
Honeymaren blinked. "I feel caution… and excitement… and-"
Her brown eyes drove wide.
"What?" Elsa's head tilted.
Blushing, Honeymaren dropped her hand. "I-I feel want… desire maybe..."
Though her own cheeks darkened at Honeymaren's discovery, Elsa couldn't help but laugh. "That's a new one for me, too, I'm realizing. But I think I'm beginning to understand it."
"You want me?" she gawked.
Elsa shrugged. "I want you… because you love me..."
The tiniest squeak escaped Honeymaren's throat. Her lips parted and her eyes flickered over Elsa's face.
"But I need you to hear me when I say- how I feel about you and my family is not worth losing through sacrifice… However, something could happen to either of us tomorrow… or the next day, or even the one after that. But I think I'm starting to realize that while I'm afraid to leave you or lose you, I would regret not having told you this more… And I know I've said it… but I'm in love with you, Honeymaren. I think I'll love you in this life, and in the next; and for however many lives come after that. And I'm sorry I didn't realize it sooner. I'm sorry it took me until our world was falling apart to see how important to me you've grown to become, but everything happens for a reason, right? Perhaps I was given this moment so I could have something to fight for that was totally and completely mine.
"Look at it this way- I've never had a friend, nor a partner; I've never had someone in my life who can love me in the way in which you do. And you do it so easily… so selflessly... You would have allowed me to continue on through life, blind to my feelings- all so you felt you didn't interfere with my own wants or life plan… But I'm glad it didn't work out that way. I'm glad you told me how you felt so I could come to terms with how I was feeling the same… I'm so happy being loved by you, Honeymaren. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before and I wouldn't trade that through sacrifice, or for anything else that came along."
Elsa sighed. She twisted her finger around the end of her braid. "Having said that, though. There isn't anything I wouldn't do to protect you; even if that meant upsetting you in some way. I imagine you understand that, seeing how you turned away from the North Mountain to keep me safe."
Her lips pulled to the side. Elsa tried to smile, but the way that Honeymaren was gazing at her had it quickly falling away.
"I don't say that to worry you, of course… I just want you to understand that sometimes, as with most people, the thoughts that pop into my head aren't always the 'end all' of decisions. While we're learning more about this… this thing between us… I need you to be willing to give me the benefit of the-"
Honeymaren's fingers shielded over Elsa's lips. She frowned, shaking her head. "You're ranting…"
When her hand fell away, Elsa laughed. "Was I? I'm sorry…" she blushed.
"No, no, don't be sorry… It's cute. I just can't… keep up…"
Elsa watched her return to the edge of the bed. With her mouth slightly agape and eyes wide, Honeymaren stared at her.
"I can see I've made you uncomfortable. I didn't mean to overwhelm you, but I didn't want to leave things unsaid before tomorrow." When Honeymaren didn't respond, Elsa sighed. "Perhaps I should give you some time to digest. I threw a lot at you and that wasn't really fair..."
Her cheeks were burning. Her heart was racing. Honeymaren's eyes never wavered, but Elsa was tired of feeling on display. She pulled her lips to the side and offered Honeymaren a small shrug. Elsa quickly turned on her feet before heading back for the door. Her fingers closed around the metal. She sighed and felt her shoulders drop; but when she yanked back on the handle, it wouldn't budge.
Confused, Elsa looked up to find Honeymaren's hand above her head, holding the door closed. With wide eyes, she spun around. The distance between them was much shorter than Elsa would have assumed. Honeymaren was standing over her. Her hand still splayed against the door beside Elsa's head.
Elsa opened her mouth to question her, but the words were stolen from her thoughts. Honeymaren's other hand had snaked in around her neck. She directed Elsa's back into the wood and was lowering down to her. With her eyes closed, Honeymaren captured her lips between her own, slightly darker ones.
It was like drinking the wine she'd tried earlier. Honeymaren could taste it on her lips, and a similar feeling of warmth spread through her chest. But it wasn't just the wine. She'd noticed it earlier. There was the scent of Elsa's skin, and a flavor that was so distinctly her- it made Honeymaren dizzy as it settled over her.
Kissing Elsa was like breathing in crisp morning air; winter wind with a hint of unknown sweetness. There was the scent of vanilla and something similar to spring daisies. Yet where was it coming from; her hair, her face? She couldn't tell, but Honeymaren would savor it regardless.
Kissing Elsa was like knowing her; really knowing her. Honeymaren could feel and understand each inch of the woman attached to her lips. She felt her love, her fear, her strength, and her desire. With every second she grew more overwhelmed, but Honeymaren couldn't bring herself to pull away.
Her hands drew from Elsa's head and latched posessively onto her hips. Honeymaren dragged her forward, forcing the heat of the stomachs together. She trapped her there. Elsa's shoulders still braced against the door. Her waist pressed into Honeymaren's, but the thirst for her wouldn't quench. There was the nagging sensation that this wasn't enough as Honeymaren's insides began burning.
Elsa, who'd surrendered to the arms that held her there, moved to find her footing. She tied her hands behind Honeymaren's neck. Her back arched away from the door. She steaded herself on her toes, but was suddenly forced away.
With a palm to her chest, Honeymaren directed Elsa flat back against the door. She held her there, tearing her lips away. Her wide brown eyes stared hard. Heavy breaths had her chest desperately reeling and her mind was fuzzy. Yet one thing was certain.
"Stop, stop for a minute, please!" Honeymaren wanted to cry as she held Elsa from leaning back down to her.
"What's wrong?" she blinked. Her cheeks as well as her lips had drastically darkened.
Elsa's blatant stare caused Honeymaren to shiver. "I can't…"
"Can't what?" Elsa's hand lifted to brush the hair from Honeymaren's face.
She quickly backed away. Leaving a foot of distance between them, Honeymaren shielded herself with her arms. "It's a lot…" she tried again. "I can't tell if it's you or me… but I feel all of it…"
Blue eyes widened in remembrance. Elsa felt the heat continuing to rise in her face. "Oh…"
As someone new to intimacy, she hadn't thought to ask Honyeymaren about her own experience. Everything Elsa was feeling was unfamiliar. It wasn't unpleasant, but it was strange. The only comparison she thought to make was when she'd learned to allow herself to feel emotions again.
But it was still so different than fear and love and hurt. Elsa had never felt warmer, or more incontrol of her powers. She considered how love could thaw, and that perhaps this intimate moment stemmed from there. Love kept her magic in check, while allowing Elsa the freedom to experience the unknown.
She could feel the pleasant ache in her waist. There was the haze and breathlessness of desire. Like gravity, Elsa wanted to pull herself in closer to each new sensation, but if this was a normal reaction; then Honeymaren was experiencing it tenfold.
It was startlingly embarrassing to consider that Honeymaren could feel all of what Elsa felt herself. Not only was she a novice with unfamiliar urges flooding through her, but Honeymaren had also been made increasingly aware of that fact.
Honeymaren stifled a tiny whimper and ran a hand through her hair. "No, please… don't do that. I can see you're beating yourself up… Your face… Please, I didn't mean-"
"No! I-I'm embarrassed!" Elsa slid away from the door.
With her back to Honeymaren, she crossed to the window. Her fingers found the lip and she clamped down around the wooden sill. All at once, Elsa was reminded of her powers; the ice, the fear, the anxiety. Not even this intimate moment could be simple for her. There would always be challenges. Something would always get in her way.
"Elsa, please look at me…" Honeymaren whispered from directly behind her. "There's nothing for you to be embarrassed about. You didn't do anything wrong! I did!"
Her hands loosened their hold, but Elsa didn't turn. "You? How did you do something wrong? I forgot- I forgot I have this power over you now; this control! I could hurt you!"
Honeymaren surprised even herself by laughing. "I am so far from hurt right now… you have to know that, Elsa."
"But you were scared!" she fought back.
"I was overwhelmed! I'm over-sensitized! I didn't want to take advantage of you." When Elsa still wouldn't look at her, Honeymaren sighed. She turned her back to the window and slid in beside her. "What you were feeling, and what I was feeling- I felt out of control. I was losing myself, and that wasn't right. I would never want to be that way with you."
Her head slid to the side. Elsa contemplated Honeymaren with a frown. "You thought you were forcing yourself on me?"
Shrugging, Honeymaren faced the window again. She looked up at the green crest of a hill leading away from Arendelle. "If I hadn't already, I was afraid I might."
The laugh that passed through Elsa's lips was soft. "Never in my life…" she breathed, shaking her head.
Elsa fought to roll her eyes. "You- being afraid to hurt me, or take advantage of me in some way… It's humorous, don't you think? I might not be able to use my powers against you, but I could certainly use them to defend myself."
Refusing to turn her head, Honeymaren grit her teeth. "I'm afraid you wouldn't."
"Hold you back?" She nearly snorted. "If I felt overwhelmed or as anxious as you just did, I would have done the same thing… I didn't… because I was enjoying myself."
She expected to find her blushing. However, when Honeymaren met her eyes, she was surprised to see Elsa looking as confident as her voice had sounded. Her thin lips had curled around their edges. Her hands folded patiently at her waist, and Elsa's expression was calm.
"Where did this sudden change of heart come from? I don't understand it…"
Confidence still at the forefront, Elsa's hand slipped around the tight red fabric against Honeymaren's arm. She guided her back toward the bed. Together they sat, and Elsa turned to her with her legs crossed.
"My sister asked me about us."
Listening, Honeymaren's eyes widened.
"I couldn't lie to her… and if I'm being honest, I don't think I wanted to." Elsa continued. "And while I didn't give her specifics, I did tell her how I felt. Anna made me realize that while fighting this, or taking things slow, had felt like the easier way to go about this… it wasn't the right way."
"The right way?" Honeymaren frowned. Her head tilted as she spun to view Elsa better.
"Northuldra customs are much different from Arendellian ones, as I'm sure you've noticed. That being said, had I stayed here and continued on as queen- eventually I would have been courted. Suitors would have made claims for my hand, and it would all be very… formal…
"But that's not how life in Northuldra operates. So, I'm not sure what customs there are for us to follow there. The right way here may be much different than there, but I feel the need to meet somewhere in the middle, and do what's right for us.
"My plan is- you and I are going to forget about timing; just like Anna said. There is no perfect time to fall for someone else... We're going to ignore the questions and uncertainties, and I'm going to choose you in the way that you have chosen me. So why the change of heart?" Elsa shrugged. "I guess it's because what was important before, isn't important now. My fears and anxiety are small in comparison to what I feel for you. I'm going to take back my life back from my years of hesitation, and I'm selfishly going after something that I want for the first time in forever."
Honeymaren dejectedly dropped her chin. "-but what if this battle between Cleyo and her armies doesn't pan out in our favor?"
Leaning forward, Elsa reached for Honeymaren's hands. They slid into hers with ease. Tan skin against her pale had Elsa smiling, and she shrugged. "Life is unpredictable. I don't have any more control over Cleyo than I do her actions. I can only act for myself, and if this is the last night I have; I'm glad I'm spending it with you."
Brows furrowed. Honeymaren tensed. "Elsa…" she breathed.
Her fingers pressed to Honeymaren's lips. Elsa shook her head, eyes carefully lowering. She released her, and moved onto her knees. When her hands returned, they splayed over Honeymaren's shoulders. Elsa heard the hitch of her breath as she pushed the red fabric down her arms. Honeymaren's expression lifted. Her eyes widened in shock, and the chill of night coursed across her exposed skin.
Elsa's actions were tentative. Her attention never faltered. Even as the dress pooled around Honeymaren's waist, her blue eyes burned into nervous brown. She followed by dematerializing her own dress. She was left seated in front of Honeymaren completely and surprisingly bare. Her hands still waited against the ribbons of red silk. She pushed it further down Honeymaren's thighs before carrying them back up her arms.
Her fingers lightly brushed against the creases of her biceps. Elsa didn't stop until she reached the gentle curve of her neck. Her hands flattened against its smooth surface and curled beneath Honeymaren's ears. Elsa allowed her fingers to flex, tightening their hold.
"Is this alright?" she asked. Her cheeks slightly darkened.
Slowly, Honeymaren nodded. She hadn't managed to turn her attention down to Elsa yet either. Instead, she closed her eyes. She allowed the warmth of the hands around her neck, console the many emotions coursing through her. They guided her away from the confusion, the anxiety, and fear. The heat of Elsa's touch was the gentle reminder that there could only ever be love between them.
Dragging in an unsteady breath, Honeymaren reached up with her own hands. They closed over Elsa's and held her in place. When she reopened her eyes, Honeymaren watched the blue ones before her inching in closer. Elsa's attention fixed on her until their lips were positioned a breath apart.
Whatever happened next, it would have to be Honeymaren's decision. Elsa could only show her how she felt, but she would never force Honeymaren to react to her in any way she wasn't ready for.
They were so close, Elsa hadn't seen Honeymaren's mouth moving as she spoke. She did hear her words, though. The sentiment had her smiling, yet Elsa still wouldn't move. She allowed Honeymaren to lower to her and press their lips together on her own accord.
For a long minute, it was nothing between them but a simple kiss. They relished in the feel of each other's lips. They took in the scent of each other's skin. Honeymaren pulled back to breathe before her hands slid down the length of Elsa's arms. She was forced to stop at the bend of her elbows. Never could she have imagined touching Elsa to feel this euphoric. Perhaps it was her new empathic abilities, or maybe it was just Elsa. Honeymaren had a feeling it was the later, and that thought would have her following Elsa anywhere.
Even when she was pulled off her knees and her dress was removed; Honeymaren surrendered to the lips against her own. Her hands fell from Elsa's waist. She held herself above the bed as Elsa settled onto her back. Honeymaren then released her weight and her hips lowered to Elsa's. The bare skin of their stomachs touched; their chests, their legs. The sensation had Honeymaren gasping against Elsa's mouth.
Elsa was intoxicating and dizzying. Her skin was surprisingly warm. There was no semblance of cold or fear within her, and Honeymaren savoured every inch. While they kissed, her hands loosened her braid. Fingers tangled into blonde hair. She intertwined their legs together and tasted Elsa's lips with the tip of her tongue.
That action had Elsa arching her shoulders back into the pillows. Her hips lifted and her hands came down. They caressed the full length of Honeymaren's back. Elsa worked across every exposed fraction of skin and devoured it beneath her touch. As Honeymaren's lips left hers and started across her jaw, she sighed. Elsa's eyes held wide as her nerves fired.
This wasn't a moment of love. It was a moment of learning. Both Honeymaren and Elsa pulled their hands across each other in a desperate attempt to memorize each crest and curve. When Elsa's fingers found her front, Honeymaren couldn't be bothered to care. She allowed herself to be fondled. The perk tip of her breast ached as Elsa's thumb brushed against it. Yet as soon as her hands were there, they were gone. They sought further down Honeymaren's waist in an attempt to take in all of her stomach.
But she was desperate to see her, too. Elsa had felt every inch of Honeymaren against her. Now, she needed to know; to see. Honeymaren must have had the same thought, because she, too, was arching away. She pushed herself upright. Her legs folded on either side of Elsa's hips and she looked down at her.
Ethereal-like and sparkling, Elsa lay before her. Her blue eyes were as dark, if not darker, than they had been before. And she was as slim as her tight dress allowed Honeymaren to imagine. Her hips, rounded, and her chest rose and fell beneath perfect handfuls of skin.
Honeymaren could call Elsa beautiful again, but she'd be lying. There were no words in this moment; none for which she knew. And so she took her hands and splayed them over Elsa's stomach. They rested there, not moving. Her fingers flexed. Each tip curled needily into pale skin, and she slowly pushed them upward. Honeymaren traced across her torso. She stilled against Elsa's chest before working them back down in the same manner.
Elsa's breathing only continued to heighten. At the same time, she was digesting the full body above hers. She and Honeymaren were oposities in every sense of the word. Her skin was darker. Her breasts were fuller, and even that of the color of her lips. But their differences made sense, and perhaps that was why Elsa felt so at ease. The two of them fit together in a way she couldn't quite understand.
And she didn't need to. As Honeymaren's hands circled her arms, her chest, and her neck; nothing needed to be known. Elsa lifted her own hands and flattened them against her. She marveled at how someone so physical, could feel so soft beneath her touch. From Honeymaren curls of brown to the curve of her waist, she felt like the silk of the dress Elsa had just removed from her. It made sense to her now why seeing someone in this manner was the big feat couples worked toward.
At this moment, she was Honeymaren's, and Honeymaren was hers.
A/N: Before you ask, no. No, they did not have sex. This moment wasn't really about that, and I really didn't want to have to answer a million questions about, "WHY DID YOU CUT IT OFF BEFORE THEY BONED!" ← because this chapter really wasn't going there. (Not yet, chill you dirty, dirty children, you… Your time is coming.) I'm giving both Elsa and Honeymaren that moment to just be; just be- before I, you know, send them both off to magical war and probable death.
Cheers to all my reviewers. I love you all so much right now, and I'm hoping you're all healthy and well.
Next chapter: Elsa heads out to meet Cleyo, and HM and Anna get INTO IT. Note, content restrictions still apply from here on out.
Where Magic Flows
Lay the Answers: Part Three
Honeymaren's fingers traced over her cheek. Her knuckles brushed along Elsa's jaw. She smiled at her weakly, but Elsa could see right through her. She knew it was forced. With each passing minute, the anxiety in Honeymaren grew. The love in her eyes was not lost, but very quickly it had been joined by fear. Wishing it away, Elsa smirked. She leaned further into Honeymaren's touch, and the hand at the back of her neck tightened.
They lay there together. Their faces held mere inches apart. Honeymaren's fingers combed through the soft blonde hairs at the back of her head, while Elsa had her arms secured around Honeymaren's waist. It was comfortable and warm. Elsa found she wanted to lose herself to it, but Honeymaren's fearful eyes wouldn't let her forget.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
Honeymaren's brow flinched upon hearing her voice. "I'm thinking… you're beautiful." Elsa's cheeks darkened in response. "-and… I'm afraid."
Frowning, Elsa's hand grew heavier against Honeymaren's side. "We'll get through it," she promised.
"I just- I don't want you taking any chances." Honeymaren whispered.
She drew her fingers along her back. They stopped at Honeymaren's shoulder and laid their draped. "-and I'd prefer it, if you took your own advice. For both our sakes, I can't be concerned about you while defending the kingdom at the same time. Trust the process, Honey."
She shivered, eyes enlarging. "You called me, Honey?"
"Did I?" Elsa's brows pinched. "Sorry- I meant..." She was quickly silenced.
Honeymaren's fingertips had circled her cheeks before planting over Elsa's lips. "Don't be sorry. I- I like it."
Elsa breathily laughed. She turned her head from the fingers to speak, "Honey it is, then."
Leaning forward, Honeymaren kissed her. She lingered there with her hands finding Elsa's hair again. She loved her hair, and it was easy between them; as easy as breathing. For hours now, they'd done just this- dozing, kissing, touching. They took advantage of each second they'd been gifted with, and held on tight to what they had.
Honeymaren's hand came back to Elsa's front, splaying over her chest. "When will you leave?"
She allowed herself to be drawn in closer. Elsa touched her forehead to Honeymaren's. "Soon… before the sun rises."'
"And there's no convincing you to let me join?"
With a sigh, she arched into her. Their noses brushed and Elsa pulled back a hair. "Please don't make me say it."
Honeymaren hid her frown into Elsa's lips. She kissed her again, more demanding this time. Elsa was forced onto her back and Honeymaren's weight settled on top of her.
Lips planted beneath Elsa's ear.
"You don't have to say anything," she whispered. "-just like you don't have to tell me how much you enjoy when I do this..."
Teeth lightly nipped at the skin of her jaw. Elsa smiled and shook her head. "I see you're wasting no time in exercising your new-found power over me?"
"On the contrary," Honeymaren's words rang breathless as her lips descended Elsa's neck. "I'm giving you something to remember me by, so you know what you'll come home to."
The tip of Honeymaren's tongue traced over her collarbone. Elsa dropped her head back into the pillow. "Not. Fair," she told her.
Honeymaren laughed. "-but not at all unlike those times you dumped snow on my head or encouraged Gale to steal my things, right?"
Turning onto her side had Honeymaren falling off of her. She landed on the mattress with a thud as Elsa sat up.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Elsa pulled her hair over her shoulder. She began braiding it down the side, exposing the full-length of her back to Honeymaren.
Seeing this, she smirked. Honeymaren slid in behind her and ran her lips across Elsa's shoulders. "You know exactly what I am talking about."
Hands snagged her from around the waist as Elsa quickly finished off her braid. She turned. Her hand landed on the mattress beside Honeymaren's hip. Their faces held mere inches apart and she smiled.
"Being with you… like this… it's easier than I thought it would be... I like it." Elsa's breathing quickened.
Rolling her eyes, Honeymaren met her stare. "There's more to look forward to… remember that while you're out there."
"I will," she leaned into Honeymaren's lips. "-so long as you swear to remember it, too?"
Nodding, her hands hugged to Elsa's curves. "Anything for you, my love."
Elsa blushed. Air suddenly caught in her throat. "I like that, too…" Her eyes turned shyly to the wall. "My love…"
"Then promised me to remember that as well, and I'll say it to you as many times, and for as long as you like."
Her attention returned. "Okay…" she breathed and kissed her.
Honeymaren pulled back, brushing Elsa's bangs from her face. "Okay."
Standing before her was everyone she loved. Kristoff and Anna were hand in hand at the front of the group. Both Honeymaren and Ryder waited at their backs. Elsa's blue eyes scanned them slowly. Only when her shoulders straightened, and after she'd drawn in a deep breath; did Anna approach her.
With her arms wide, she enveloped Elsa in a hug. "Don't be foolish. We can't do this without you."
Elsa nodded against the top of Anna's head. "I know it, and I will be smart."
"Good," she pulled back to see her. "-and we will be prepared… for whatever comes next."
Lowering her eyes, Elsa took Anna's hands in hers. "Don't engage with Westleton. No matter what happens, or how they respond to the barrier- get our people somewhere safe first; before our armies take any action."
"I remember," she squeezed her palm. "We do this together, right?"
Elsa smiled. She touched her forehead to Anna's. "Together."
When Anna stepped back, Kristoff appeared at her side. His fingers curled over Elsa's shoulder and his brows lowered. "Come back to us, alright?"
She smiled softly at him. "I will, and take care of my sister. She's stubborn..."
Anna ribbed them both. "Be nice," she pleaded, and her eyes began to well.
"Now, there will be none of that…" Elsa soothed her hands over Anna's cheeks. "You said it yourself- this is Arendelle's best hope."
"I know… I just hate that you're that." Anna sniffled.
"It's better than being Arendelle's biggest threat for once." Elsa teased, causing Anna to laugh through her tears.
"Hey, I mean, I'm still pretty afraid of Elsa, myself... Cleyo's not gunna know what hit her!"
Honeymaren rolled her eyes at her brother as they stepped toward them.
"That's enough from you!" Her elbow jabbed into Ryder's side.
He ignored her. When Elsa released Anna, Ryder quickly grabbed her and pulled her into a hug. Then, just because he could, he pulled the other three into his arms as well.
They stood there; a family. Their arms tangled together and they hugged themselves tighter into the group. Anna cried a little harder. Kristoff's hands splayed against hers and Elsa's backs. And amidst the chaotic heap of limbs, Honeymaren found Elsa with her own hand.
Warmth surged up her spine. Elsa felt the heat of Honeymaren's love passing through her gown and into her skin. She allowed it to fill her whole. Until her blood boiled and her head grew dizzy, Elsa held onto the people she cared about more than anything else in the world.
They stood there at the start of the eastern trails. In the lower forest, the sun began to pull up from behind the trees. Feeling it against her skin, Elsa forced herself away from their arms. She looked down at them and her lips pursed.
"It's time," she nodded.
Elsa's eyes met Honeymaren's. She took a single painful step toward the trail. No one moved; not even when Nokk appeared at her side from beyond the trees.
She drew further and further away- one careful footstep at a time. Elsa's attention stayed strict on Honeymaren. Her toes met the rocks along the path, and she stilled.
"I'm sorry," she mouthed. It was meant to be a whisper, but her voice hurt too much to use it.
Quickly, she turned away from her, missing the confusion pulling across Honeymaren's face. Elsa looked to Anna and stiffly nodded. With a loud crack in the silence, power erupted below her feet. Ice built up from the ground. A low wall circled Arendelle. Thick and cold, they continued high toward the dark clouds overhead.
"What?" Honeymaren shouted.
Elsa was encapsulating the entire kingdom in a dome of ice. Everywhere she turned the walls grew higher. Over the tops of the buildings, down by the fjord; ice caved in around them.
When she turned back, Elsa was but a flash of light moving up the trails. On the back of Nokk, she disappeared in a mere blink.
Though her legs had turned weak and her breathing, shallowed; Honeymaren turned to Anna. Her typically tan skin had grown pale. Brown eyes were low, and she glared hard.
"This wasn't the plan!" Honeymaren's voice broke. "She was meant to seal the fjord! She lied to me, and you- you knew about it!"
Tears still in her eyes, Anna raised her hands. "Elsa knew you'd try and follow her-"
"Follow, Anna? We can't get out! How can we help her if we're all trapped inside her cave?"
Honeymaren watched as Anna tentatively turned to Kristoff. The two shared a look before Anna's lips tugged to the side.
"You know something?" Honeymaren's arms crossed.
She drew in a deep breath. Her voice leveled, "This is the plan; a different one... but the outcome remains the same."
"I get it! I'm not royalty! I have no place here in Arendelle, nor at your meetings, but it's my home that's at risk, too! You both sat there and fed me lies last night! How could you do that to me?"
"Honeymaren, no!" Anna pleaded. "I didn't know either! She didn't tell me about this until after she'd already sent the letter to Cleyo..."
"What's the plan, then? How do I find Elsa?" Honeymaren continued. Her face darkened as the sun pulled between trees.
"If she needs us, Elsa will make it known. That part of the plan is still true."
Growling, Honeymaren shrugged away from Ryder as his hand reached for her shoulder. He reeled back, hurt, but remained at her side.
"Anna!" she shouted again. "What's the plan? How much of it has changed? Please, tell me, how do I get out of here?"
Her blue eyes met Kristoff's once more. Anna sighed and she shook her head. "There's a way... I promise you that, but now's not the time. Honeymaren, I'm asking you to trust us! We need you here. Elsa needs you here! Now, will you comply, or do I need to keep you under my watch?"
Honeymaren didn't respond. Her brows lowered further.
With a breath, Anna spun sharply to Kristoff. "Find Mattias," she directed. "It's time to rally the army and move our people into safety. Send our guards down to the fjord. I want a report on any activity happening outside of the barricade."
Before Kristoff could reply, Honeymaren stormed past them.
"Mare!" Ryder hurried after her, but Anna caught his arm.
"Do not let her out of your sight. I promised Elsa I would keep her safe." Her words rang fiercely under her breath.
Ryder nodded. He made another attempt to move toward the village.
"Ryder," Anna called to him again, but softer this time. "Honeymaren is the answer. If she figures that out without us knowing; all our forces will be stuck behind these walls. Watch her closely, please..."
He briefly frowned. Confusion thickened across his face. Ryder shook it away before nodding again and hurrying off to catch up with his sister.
"Do you think it's true?" Kristoff asked after Ryder had left their sight. "Do you believe Honeymaren can get us through the barrier?"
Turning to him, Anna's shoulders inched toward her ears. "I think there's still more Elsa has yet to tell us, but I trust her, Kristoff. If she says Honeymaren can do it, then I believe her."
Kristoff sighed. "Good…" His lips slightly curled. "-because if not… I was afraid that what Honeymaren told Ryder would be true after all."
"What do you mean?" Her brows pinched. Anna folded her arms.
She didn't move when Kristoff's hands settled over her shoulders. He was looking her in the eyes, but his attention felt very far away.
"Honeymaren was afraid Elsa's plan was to sacrifice herself to Cleyo to save Arendelle."
Anna's jaw wavered. The air left her lungs in a rush. Her hand shook as it lifted between them and hovered over her mouth. "-and… and if we're all stuck in here…"
Kristoff slowly nodded.
"She didn't! She wouldn't!" Anna defended.
Biting his lip, Kristoff took her into his arms. "Anna… seeing this... I'm afraid she might have."
I call this, the beginning of the end, my friends.
Chapter 25: Part One - A Thousand Reasons
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."