Honeymaren double checked her appearance. It was supposed to be her day off today, but the captain of the guard had called her in unexpectedly. At age 20 Honeymaren was young, but skilled enough that she had risen quickly to a very prominent position among the Royal Guard of the kingdom of Arendelle. Captain Mattias had always been very complimentary of her performance, but it was still very odd for the older man to call in anyone during their well deserved hours of rest. She was afraid she could be in trouble, though she had no idea about anything that might have gotten her in trouble.
As the door to the barracks opened and Captain Mattias came striding in Honeymaren stood and saluted, right fist against her heart. He only returned the salute halfheartedly as he hurried to his office, gesturing for her to follow him. He sat behind his desk and slumped, clearly exhausted. “At ease, guardsman,” he instructed, and she relaxed her posture as she stood in front of his desk.
“Have you been told about today's events?” he asked, rubbing his temples wearily.
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
“There was another attempt on the Queen's life,” he said.
“Is she alright?”
“She is,” he said. He paused for a moment. “Thrúd, however, lost her life in the attack.”
Honeymaren gasped. Thrúd had been the Queen's personal bodyguard since before Honeymaren even joined the guard, when the Queen was still Princess Elsa. Thrúd had been one of the best fighters in the guard, if not the best.
“The assassin?” Honeymaren asked, worried that perhaps such a skilled assassin might still be lurking about.
“Dead. Swiftly dispatched by Thrúd, but not before getting a small cut on her with a poisoned knife.”
Honeymaren nodded. Even the best fighter could get a small cut from a lucky strike, and poison didn't care how strong of a warrior you were.
“What do you need from me?” she asked. She no longer feared she was in trouble. It was clear the captain simply needed his best people today. She was proud he had asked for her.
“The Queen needs a new personal bodyguard, immediately. I'm assigning that task to you.”
Honeymaren hesitated. “Are you sure, sir?” she asked.
He looked up at her, one eyebrow quirked. “Is there a problem with that?”
“Well, surely a more senior guardsman would be better suited?”
Mattias shook his head. “No. This position requires bravery and quick reflexes. The more senior guardsmen are also slowing down from age. You're the best I've got when it comes to speed, strength, and dependability.”
Honeymaren nodded, flattered at his praise. “Alright, but...”
Mattias leaned back. “Speak freely.”
Honeymaren sighed. “I'm just not sure I can get along with the Queen. I've heard she's really hard to deal with. I don't think I've ever seen her smile.”
To her surprise, Mattias laughed out loud. “Is that it?” he chuckled. “Well, yes, I suppose she does have that reputation. And it could take you a bit to get comfortable with each other, but that'd be true of anyone I picked. But believe me, once she warms to you she's quite easy to talk to.”
Honeymaren had a hard time believing that Arendelle's legendary “Ice Queen” was capable of warming up to anyone. Still, if anyone in the guard would know what the Queen was really like it was Captain Mattias. Well, and Thrúd, before today.
“Alright,” she nodded.
“Good,” Mattias said, groaning as he stood from his seat. “Let's go get you started.”
“I'm going to meet the Queen now?” she asked nervously.
“It'd be hard to guard her without meeting her, so yes,” he said.
Honeymaren had never actually met the Queen up close. She looked down at her uniform, suddenly wondering if she should be in parade uniform or something more formal.
“You look fine, Honeymaren,” Mattias assured. “You need to be in standard uniform for this job most of the time. It's your best defensive option while keeping you mobile.”
Honeymaren couldn't argue with that. Parade uniform and other formal options tended to be less armored and harder to move in. The standard uniform was largely a thick cloth armor, with leather and chain mail adding to the protection in more vulnerable areas, and small plate pauldrons. The main cloth body of the uniform was green, with leather and chain mail pieces covered with purple cloth, and the golden crocus of Arendelle decorating the pauldrons, which were otherwise colored purple on one half and green on the other half, matching the kingdom's crest.
Mattias paused. “Yes?”
“Where did Thrúd get cut?” Honeymaren almost didn't want to know, but at the same time she felt she had to ask.
Mattias stepped closer to Honeymaren. He reached out, using his index finger, and traced a line across her upper arm, a few inches below the pauldron. “Here,” he said quietly. “The assassin was aiming for her chest, but she deflected his blow to the side. Just... not enough.”
Honeymaren couldn't bring herself to respond. She simply nodded, and followed as Mattias turned and walked out, following him to her new position.
“My Queen,” Mattias said, taking one knee in front of Elsa and putting his fist against his left breast in salute, head bowed. Honeymaren, just behind him, took the same position.
“You may rise,” Queen Elsa said. Up close her voice sounded very pretty. It sounded cold and emotionless in tone, but the voice itself sent pleasant shivers down Honeymaren's spine.
Mattias and Honeymaren both stood. Honeymaren remained at attention, while Mattias relaxed his posture and approached. “My Queen, I've brought the replacement for guardsman Thrúd. Allow me to present guardsman Honeymaren,” he said, gesturing to Honeymaren.
Honeymaren approached, still not as at ease as Mattias seemed to be. “It's an honor to meet you, your majesty.”
She was now standing no further than six feet from the Queen of Arendelle. Queen Elsa was just as beautiful as the rumors said, and more beautiful up close than Honeymaren had realized when she had previously seen the Queen during speeches or ceremonies. Pale skinned, with freckles that she had never noticed from a distance, and beautiful blonde hair, which today was worn loose and over one shoulder, and clear blue eyes. Her face was impassive, and she almost seemed to be looking through Honeymaren rather than at her.
“Thank you, Captain,” Elsa said, nodding at him, and turning her attention again towards Honeymaren. “Tell me about yourself,” she said.
“What do you want to know?”
Elsa was silent for a moment. “I want to know you. Whatever you feel is an important part of you, that is what I want to know.”
Honeymaren nodded, but wasn't entirely sure what to say. “I grew up in a small village in the woods near the capital,” she said. “I joined the guard at 14, finished my training at 18. I'm 20 now.”
Elsa sighed. Whatever she had been hoping to be told, that apparently wasn't it.
“I have a brother I'm close to,” Honeymaren added. Elsa perked up a little at this. “He's a reindeer herder. I don't see him as often as I'd like since moving to the capital.”
Elsa nodded, and her mouth gave a small twitch that might have been a smile. It came and went so quickly that Honeymaren wasn't even entirely sure she saw it.
“What do your family think of you joining the royal guard?”
“They're very supportive,” Honeymaren said. “My gran encouraged the move when I told her I wanted to join the guard. My brother worries about me, but he's always happy to see me happy. My parents were killed by bandits when I was young.”
“Is that why you decided to join the guard?”
“Yes, your majesty,” Honeymaren nodded.
“You said you joined at 14, and you're 20 now, correct?”
Queen Elsa leaned forward. “So you would have already started your training when it was publicly announced that I was a mage.”
Honeymaren nodded again. It was five years ago when the regent at the time told the world that Elsa, the heir to the throne, was a mage. It caused quite the stir. Many people objected to the idea that a mage would soon be the Queen. Other kingdoms run by magi tended to elevate any and all magic users above anyone else in the kingdom, and being a mage was a prerequisite for those kingdoms monarchies. Other kingdoms didn't allow magic within their borders at all, and practicing magic was an immediate death sentence or, if you were lucky, exile. Arendelle always been a kingdom that allowed magic use, but never had a mage for a king or queen. Not until Elsa.
“What were your thoughts at that time? Did you regret joining the guard?”
“No, your majesty,” Honeymaren said earnestly. “My home village is small, but we have a mage who lives there with us. He's always so kind to me and my family, and always acts as a healer for the village. He only charges what he feels you can safely afford, even if that means performing healing for free, whatever injury it might be.”
“That's good,” Elsa said. “Healing is an ability I wish were within my powers. Your village is quite fortunate.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
Elsa turned towards Mattias again. “Tell me of Honeymaren's qualifications.”
“She's incredibly capable,” Mattias said, grinning at her. “Consistently coming in the top among all the guards in physical trials. She's also proven herself to be both brave and loyal. In truth, I nearly passed her from training to full guardsman a year early.”
“Is that so?” Elsa said. “I believe the last person who was able to graduate a year early was Thrúd, was it not?”
Mattias nodded. “Yes. Honeymaren reminds me of Thrúd in many ways.”
“Is that why you chose her as Thrúd's replacement?”
“No,” he shook his head. “It's why I felt comfortable with my choice. However, my decision is based upon her physical performance and bravery.”
“You've mentioned her bravery twice now,” Elsa said. “Could you elaborate?”
“Gladly,” Mattias said, and Honeymaren felt herself begin to blush. “A year ago there was an attack made against one of the city's guard towers. Perhaps you recall.”
“I do,” Elsa said. “The tower was lost in a blaze.”
“What you may not have heard about was Honeymaren's performance during that time. While most of the guard stationed there began to evacuate, grabbing what supplies and materials they could carry, Honeymaren did not. Rather, she ran to the holding cells. There were three prisoners being kept in the watch tower's holding cells until they could be brought to the prison. Even knowing that these people were accused of crimes, even murder for one of the three, Honeymaren still saved their lives. She shackled their hands, attached a chain to all the shackles to keep hold of them, and escorted them out of the burning tower.”
Elsa looked at Honeymaren with an appraising eye. “Was this standard procedure in the case of fire?”
“No, majesty,” Mattias said. “Procedure doesn't say anything about the prisoners at all. When it was decided, the law didn't care much about the rights of prisoners.”
“I see,” Elsa said. “Honeymaren, what made you decide to help these people? Did you realize this was an attack on the tower and not an accidental fire?”
“Yes, my queen,” Honeymaren said. “Someone threw a burning torch into a window and we all heard what they shouted. We knew it was an attack.”
“What was shouted?”
“Something like, 'death to the puppets of the mage queen'.”
“As for why I helped them,” Honeymaren shrugged. “They're people too. They were our prisoners, but they hadn't been tried yet. Maybe they were innocent? Even if they were guilty, I couldn't just let people die.”
“That was brave of you,” Elsa agreed with Mattias. “Perhaps foolish as well. There were three of them and one of you.”
“Yeah, but they weren't armed. And if they had tried something, there was only one exit to the tower, and I knew other guardsmen would be there to help if I needed it.”
“Did they try something?”
“No. They were just relieved that someone remembered them, and were happy to follow my instructions if it meant leaving the smoke filled room sooner.”
“Did you believe any of them to be innocent?”
Honeymaren shook her head. “Honestly no. But even the murderer was accused of committing it in a drunken rage. It's not like I was dealing with hardened serial killers.”
“And if you had been dealing with a hardened serial killer?”
Honeymaren thought about it. “I probably would've done the same. I wasn't thinking about who they were, I just didn't want people to suffer.”
This time Honeymaren was sure she saw the smile that flashed across Elsa's face. “You've chosen well, Mattias,” she said to the guard captain.
“Thank you,” he said, bowing slightly.
“Well,” she said, now not just addressing Mattias and Honeymaren, but the other guards and advisers in the room as well. “I've had a long day. I wish to retire to my room now, if there is no further business.”
“Now that you have a bodyguard assigned to you once more,” one of the advisers spoke, “I believe that would be agreeable.”
Elsa nodded. “Come, Honeymaren. Mattias can bring your personal effects later.”
“As you wish,” Honeymaren said. She nodded once more to Mattias, before following close behind Elsa.
The two made their way through corridors of Arendelle castle. Elsa clearly knew her way around, which was good, as Honeymaren had no idea where anything was. She had been to the castle a few times, but only ever inside the entry hall and connected assembly room.
“Elsa!” a voice called urgently from further ahead. Honeymaren quickly stepped in front of the Queen, hand on the hilt of her blade.
“It's alright,” Elsa said, putting a hand on Honeymaren's arm. “It's my sister.”
“Elsa!” the voice said again, and this time Honeymaren took the time to register that it was indeed Princess Anna, the Queen's younger sister. She relaxed, letting go of her hilt, and stepped to the side to allow the redhead to rush full speed into a hug against the stoic queen. “They told me Thrúd died protecting you from an assassin! Are you alright?”
“I'm okay,” Elsa said. “I just... I need to get some rest.” She shook her head. “Oh, Anna, I don't believe you've met my new bodyguard. Anna, this is Honeymaren. Honeymaren, my sister Anna.”
“A pleasure, Princess,” Honeymaren said, bowing her head.
“Good to meet you,” Anna said. “Um, were you and Thrúd close?”
“Not really,” Honeymaren said. “I knew her by reputation, but she was Queen Elsa's bodyguard before I even joined the guard. So she didn't really spend much time at the barracks, or hanging out with the rest of us. I spoke with her a few times, but you two probably knew her far better than I ever did.”
“She was an amazing woman,” Anna said. “Like a big sister and a best friend and even a mom, all rolled into one. It's not going to be the same without her.” Elsa gave Anna a hug as tears began to form at the corners of Anna's eyes.
“Anna, you know you have to be careful,” Elsa whispered. “We aren't supposed to.”
Honeymaren was confused about what Elsa meant, but Anna seemed to understand. She nodded, and when the two of them stepped apart again Anna's eyes were dry again.
“I'm heading to my room,” Elsa said. “If you do need it, you can join me there.”
Anna nodded. “Thank you. I'm going to get some dinner from the kitchens though. Maybe later?”
“Whenever you need it,” Elsa assured.
Honeymaren was very taken aback from the entire encounter. Queen Elsa always seemed so powerful and cold that she didn't seem quite human. But here, talking with her sister, she was just another woman with a sister who needed help. The most emotion Honeymaren had seen from her before now was the brief smile when Elsa heard what she did during the fire attack. But now her face was full of emotion. She looked sad when Thrúd was mentioned, her eyes dull. She looked compassionate when Anna was distressed, her eyes warm and mouth expressive. And when she said Anna could come to her room she smiled with a reassuring smile that made even Honeymaren feel safe with her around.
“Come on, Honeymaren,” Elsa said, and her face quickly changed again to the stoic, emotionless face that Honeymaren had seen before.
“It was good to meet you, Princess,” Honeymaren said, bowing again.
“You too,” Anna said, smiling brightly, even if it didn't quite reach her eyes. She was likely still thinking about Thrúd.
It wasn't long before Elsa opened the door to an incredibly spacious bedroom. A large bed surrounded by ornate curtains in Arendelle purple was against one wall. Against another wall was a smaller bed, this one surrounded by simple curtains in Arendelle green. Also near the smaller bed was a simple chest and wardrobe. They were the most ordinary looking things in a room full of beautifully carved wood and inlaid jewels.
“That's for you,” Elsa said, gesturing to the simple items. “I'm told they've removed Thrúd's things already and replaced the bed with clean sheets.”
Honeymaren looked around curiously. “I know I'm your personal bodyguard, but is it normal to sleep in the same room as you? What if I snore?”
Elsa, to Honeymaren's great surprise, giggled. “You have a separate room as well. There's an adjoining door there,” she said, pointing to the door nearest Honeymaren's bed. “However, this area was set up for times when I was in greater danger, and wanted my bodyguard closer at hand. Thrúd actually slept in this room more than her own once we told the world about my magic. I found it... comforting.”
“I see,” Honeymaren nodded. “You never needed more... privacy?”
Elsa shrugged. “I didn't mind getting changed in front of her, nor did she mind changing in front of me. And I appreciated having company. Things get pretty lonely as queen.”
“No, I mean, you never needed her to... let you have some time to yourself? Maybe time to yourself with a handsome guest?”
“Oh!” Elsa said, her cheeks turning adorably red. “Well, um, I've never... well, I've never enjoyed the company of a guest in that way,” Elsa said. “As for myself...” she paused, then looked down. Honeymaren thought she was just trying to find the least embarrassing way to put things. She was startled to see Elsa's shoulders start to shake, and she heard as Elsa began to cry.
Acting on instinct, Honeymaren stepped forward and hugged the crying monarch. Elsa returned the hug immediately, and allowed herself to openly cry against Honeymaren's shoulder. Honeymaren ran her hands up and down Elsa's back in a way she hoped was soothing and comforting. She tried to ignore the wish that she could be hugging the beautiful woman without her armor keeping her from feeling Elsa's impressive curves.
“I'm sorry, did I say something wrong? I'm out of line asking things like that, aren't I?”
Elsa shook her head. After a moment more, she calmed her breathing and stepped back, eyes red and makeup running. “I apologize. I shouldn't have allowed my emotions to get to me like that.”
“No, it's fine,” Honeymaren assured. “You lost someone today who you had known almost your whole life. It's got to be difficult. You're allowed to cry.”
Elsa shook her head. “I'm really not. Not outside of this room, and not in this room when anyone else is present.”
Honeymaren tilted her head quizzically. “What do you mean you aren't allowed to cry?”
Elsa sighed. “It comes with being god damn royalty,” she said, anger adding to the sadness in her voice. “As queen, or even when I was simply the heir, I am not permitted to cry. If I cry over one of my subjects, it implies that I love one subject over another. As queen I must be impartial. If I cannot cry over everyone in the kingdom, then I can't cry over anyone. And I don't have the time or emotional capacity to cry over everyone.”
“But- But that's ridiculous!” Honeymaren said. “I mean, I get that showing blatant favoritism is bad, but you've got to be allowed to have people you care about. Friends, lovers, whatever. They can't just ask you not to be human!”
Elsa shook her had, and gave a sad sort of chuckle. “I wish that were the case. I'd love to be able to. In most kingdoms the royalty can do so. Even other royals here have managed to get away with it, despite Arendelle taking that more seriously. But I can't.”
“People already fear having a mage as their queen. What if I marry another mage, and only let magi children be named as heirs? Or what if I use my magic and my position to subvert the way of life the people have come to know and love? Even though Thrúd had no magic, everyone is always keeping an eye out for the smallest hint that I'm not completely impartial.” She wiped away her tears, smudging her makeup even further. “Thrúd knew that I needed to be able to have a release like this, and she let me cry here even while she was present. But I really shouldn't have cried in front of you. At least not without explaining all of that first.”
“So, when you hugged Anna earlier and said 'we aren't supposed to', you were talking about crying?” Elsa nodded. “And then when you said she could come to your room if she needed it-”
“If she needed to cry, yes. That was what I meant. I was planning on asking you to go to your own room and give us some privacy if she came. I didn't want to just drop you into this.”
“No, it's fine,” Honeymaren said, her heart breaking for the poor, sad woman in front of her. “I... I like to be able to see you as a real person, with emotions and feelings and preferences, even preferences for certain people. I promise I won't tell anyone else, too.”
“Not even your brother?”
“Not even him, unless you tell me I can.” Honeymaren sighed. “Look, you have a reputation. You're the 'Ice Queen', and not just because of your ice magic. People talk about how unfriendly and unapproachable you are. When Mattias told me I was going to be your new bodyguard, I was worried about that. I was worried you were this emotionless... well, more ice than person. Mattias assured me you weren't, but it was hard to believe him.”
Elsa gave another half chuckle. “He would know. He was there when I received word my parents died. After Anna and Thrúd, he probably knows me better than anyone.”
“Well, I'd like to get to know you. The real you. The version of you that has all these feelings.”
Elsa smiled. “I think I'd like that too.”
“And in return, I'll let you get to know me. Anything you want to know, anytime, just ask. Go ahead and feel free to behave around me as you would have behaved around Thrúd.”
“Oh, that...” Elsa hesitated again. “Sorry, when I started crying before... I was thinking about Thrúd. You asked me about... well, if we're going to be open around each other I might as well not dance around the word. You were wondering about what Thrúd did when I needed to masturbate. And, I was sad because she and I...”
“You were lovers?” Honeymaren had met Thrúd a few times, and she always thought she was an attractive woman. She was assigned as Elsa's bodyguard when Elsa was just 6 years old and Thrúd was 17, just barely graduated from training. Now Elsa was 22, just a little older than Honeymaren herself, and Thrúd had been very attractive at 33. Honeymaren wouldn't have put it past Elsa to fall for her, or for Thrúd to fall for the beautiful queen, now that she saw the human side of her.
“No,” Elsa shook her head. “Not quite. I've never had a lover. I wanted to be her lover. I told her as much. But she, well, she didn't want me to get the wrong idea. She liked me. She even loved me, but not as a lover. But she told me if she was interested in making love to anyone it would have been me. She didn't feel that attraction to anyone, but she understood that I had my own needs. So if I ever needed that kind of relief... well, she had learned how best to encourage me. To talk me through it. She never touched me during such times. We never even kissed. But she did what she felt available to do to help me manage on my own. It was safer than trying to find a partner in town and hope they keep quiet.”
Honeymaren felt lightheaded. She had learned so much, both about Elsa and Thrúd. The thought of Elsa, in this very room, desperate to get herself off, while Thrúd whispered dirty talk to encourage her, it was almost more than Honeymaren could take.
“So, you tell me I can behave the same way around you as I could around Thrúd, but I'm sure there's one exception there.”
“Oh, of course,” Honeymaren agreed as she tried to banish the dirty thoughts from her mind. “Yes, of course, I understand. Whenever you need just... well, just send me to my room and don't worry about it.”
Elsa nodded. “If we're going to be comfortable around each other, then I have another request for you.”
“Anything,” Honeymaren said without thinking.
“When we're alone, can you call me Elsa? No title, nothing but Elsa.”
Honeymaren smiled. “If that's what you want, Elsa, then I'd be happy to.”
“Honeymaren seems quite a mouthful,” Elsa said, “do you have a nickname?”
“Yeah,” she said. “My friends call me Maren. My family calls me Honey.”
“Maren, then,” Elsa said.
Honeymaren paused. “Well, what if you called me Maren in public, since it is quicker to say if you need my attention. But when we're alone you could call me Honey?”
Elsa looked like she was about to cry again, but this time she looked touch with happiness. “You don't mind?”
Honeymaren shook her head. “Elsa, I'd like to be your bodyguard for years to come. With the time we're going to be spending together I think we should count as family. I'd like it if you called me Honey.”
“Okay,” Elsa said. “Honey.” She seemed to be trying it out, just seeing how it felt on her tongue, but Honeymaren couldn't help but shiver hearing that name for her said by this woman's voice. “I'm going to get cleaned up and changed into my night clothes now,” Elsa said. “I'm sure after crying like that my makeup is a mess.”
Honeymaren giggled. “You could say that.”
“Hopefully Mattias will be here soon with your things and you can prepare for bed as well.”
“Yeah, hopefully.” Honeymaren suddenly realized that Elsa getting changed into her nightgown was likely to happen right in front of her. “And, given today, I'm sure you'd rather I sleep in here tonight.”
“If you don't mind,” Elsa said. “Thrúd assured me that I didn't snore.”
“I wasn't worried about you snoring,” Honeymaren said. “My brother says I snore. But either he's teasing me and I don't or others in the barracks didn't say anything and I do, but hopefully I won't keep you up.”
Elsa shrugged. “I guess we'll find out.”
It was hard for Honeymaren to get used to the huge change in personality Elsa went through every time she crossed the threshold of her room, but she adapted. Every day she spent most of her time with Elsa, with a few exceptions. Captain Mattias stole her away for at least an hour each day for extra training. Usually it was training for the specific sort of combat situations she could encounter as Elsa's bodyguard, or training to identify and prevent problems before they could threaten Elsa. However, sometimes the training would instead cover social etiquette. As Elsa's bodyguard she would be attending state dinners the same as Elsa, and meeting all the same nobles and dignitaries as Elsa, and while she was supposed to stay in the background she still needed to know how to act.
She also ate separately from Elsa most of the time. She watched over Elsa when she ate, standing against the wall and watching for any potential threats. She ate her own meals quickly in the servants' dining room of the castle, before getting back to the job. While she was away, be it for training or meals, Elsa would have guards from elsewhere. Honeymaren realized that some of those guards she had known to be pulled for 'special duties' from time to time before she was made Elsa's bodyguard. She understood then that these guards were used to guarding the queen, and had done so whenever Thrúd couldn't look after her for some reason. Still, Honeymaren felt odd leaving Elsa's safety to others during those times. She felt uncomfortably empty without the blonde royal around.
Elsa was very busy, but Honeymaren realized that this was her normal work load, and she was no busier than usual. They often had time to talk between various meetings, or while on their way from one place to another. These talks were nice, but always very professional.
Every evening, once they were inside Elsa's room and the door was closed, the professional air vanished entirely. She and Elsa talked about anything and everything. On Honeymaren's second night on the job Anna showed up in Elsa's room. At first Anna seemed reluctant to speak, looking from Elsa to Honeymaren, but Elsa gave her a knowing nod. Anna broke down crying, hugged in her sister's arms. They spent hours discussing Thrúd and all that she had meant to them. Honeymaren felt like she was intruding, but they told her to stay and hear what they thought about her predecessor. After that Anna would come in every couple of nights to chat to both of them. Honeymaren really liked her, and it was good to see Elsa perk up whenever she came around. And while both women were still clearly mourning, they helped each other as they slowly moved past it.
After two weeks as Elsa's bodyguard Honeymaren was eating her lunch when Anna asked to speak in private. The other servants looked at each other, curious looks on their faces. Honeymaren guessed Anna didn't normally do this kind of thing.
Anna took Honeymaren to her room and closed the door. Honeymaren hadn't been to Anna's room before, but saw the way Anna relaxed as soon as the door was closed. While she was much closer to being her normal self in public than Elsa, there were still differences.
“So, can I assume I can relax in here like I do in Elsa's room?” Honeymaren asked.
“Yeah, go ahead,” Anna said.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” Honeymaren wondered aloud.
“It's... Elsa,” she said reluctantly.
Honeymaren quirked her head. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. Well, I mean, probably. But I'm just worried.”
“Okay,” Honeymaren said, concerned. “Worried about what?”
“Well,” Anna worried her lower lip between her teeth, “I told you that I saw Thrúd as a sister and a bit of a mother figure, right?”
“I don't know if you've heard, but Elsa didn't see her in such... familial terms.”
“You're talking about Elsa's crush?”
“You know about that?” Anna asked.
Honeymaren shrugged. “We talked about it, a bit.” She wasn't sure if Anna knew about what the two of them sometimes did behind closed doors, but she didn't want to say anything Anna didn't already know. “I know that Elsa interested in more, and Thrúd wasn't.”
Anna nodded. “Well, here's where things start to get a bit awkward.” She took a deep breath. “I've been watching the way Elsa acts around you. I think she's falling for you. And I'm sure you're falling for her too.”
“What?” Honeymaren asked incredulously. “You think that I would- I mean it's just- Why would you even think-” Honeymaren sighed and decided to give up. “Okay, so, continuing on from there?”
“The problem is that Thrúd was Elsa's first crush. Maybe even first love. She was with Elsa nearly all day every day for more than a decade. That's not something you just get over. And on top of that there are a lot of ways you remind me of her. I'm sure you remind Elsa of her too. Beyond just having her job, that is.”
Honeymaren frowned. “So you're worried that if Thrúd was the unattainable forbidden fruit that Elsa always wanted, then that means I'm the attainable fruit substitute.”
Anna grimaced. “Not on purpose. She wouldn't try to use you as a replacement crush. Or use you at all! I'm just afraid that she won't be able to see you for you. I don't want her to wake up one morning and realize that she's placed all her love on you and she doesn't actually love you.”
“You think that could happen?”
“I think no one can know that right now. Least of all Elsa,” Anna said. “Sorry.”
“So you're telling me not to get involved with your sister?” Honeymaren asked.
Anna shook her head. “I'm asking you to take things slowly.”
“Slowly? I heard that you tried to marry a man after you had known him for less than a day?”
“And I learned my lesson!” Anna protested. “Elsa just can't keep that story to herself, can she?” she muttered under her breath. “The point is, I'm not saying there's anything bad if you and her maybe get together one day. I just want you both to know what's really going on when that does happen.”
Honeymaren sighed. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
“I'm sorry, Maren. You're an amazing woman, and I'm happy to call you a friend. I'd love nothing better than to see Elsa and you happily together as a couple. I'm just worried, for both of you.”
Honeymaren nodded. “I get that. And I suppose I appreciate it. I really have no way of knowing how deep Elsa's affection for Thrúd went. If Elsa and I got together and then Elsa decided it was a mistake, it'd probably be me that does all the hurting.”
“Not intentionally!” Anna said. “She'd never do anything if she knew it would turn out that way. She's the kindest and most selfless person I know.”
Honeymaren smiled. “Yeah, I get that sense about her.” She sighed, and stretched. “I really should get back to my duties now. I appreciate you talking to me about this. Really, it does mean a lot to me.”
Before Honeymaren could leave Anna gave her a big hug. “I'm serious when I say I'm glad to have you as a friend,” she said, still hugging fiercely. “I want all the good things for you.”
Honeymaren nodded, and returned the redhead's hug. “You're a good friend to me, and a good sister to Elsa. Don't ever change that.”
She felt Anna nod, before she finally stepped back, wiping away tears from her eyes. “If anyone gives you a hard time for taking a long lunch today tell them to talk to me.”
Honeymaren nodded. She waited for just a moment to be sure Anna had composed herself once again before she opened the door and stepped out.
The conversation with Anna weighed heavy on her mind. She hadn't dared to hope that Elsa might like her the same way she liked Elsa, but Anna knew Elsa way better than she did. And now that she was looking for it, Honeymaren could see signs. Things she might have dismissed as wishful thinking before now took on new meaning. The way Elsa would laugh at her jokes, even when they weren't very good. The way she would blush when she caught Honeymaren looking at her. When she changed into her night clothes it was like Elsa was embarrassed to be seen in that state of undress by Honeymaren, even though she was used to changing in front of others already. At the same time, it was like she hoped Honeymaren was looking at her. Honeymaren felt the same, being both embarrassed to change in front of her crush but hoping that Elsa liked her enough to enjoy the show.
Even when they weren't in her room, she found Elsa's gaze on her more often. She once caught Elsa looking at her rather than at the adviser she was meeting with. He cleared his throat to get her attention again and she made an excuse of being tired, and suggested they continue the meeting another time. Honeymaren knew Elsa had slept just as long as usual, and nothing else that day showed that she was worn out any more than usual.
These things made Honeymaren's heart race and her breath quicken, but then she remembered Anna's words and she lost that giddy feeling. Still, it was possible that Anna was mistaken. Maybe she was reading too much into it, and Elsa was just getting along with her.
“Do you have many friends?” Elsa asked one as the two prepared for bed in the evening.
Honeymaren shrugged. “I guess. I was on friendly terms with folks in my village, and I got along pretty well with the other guards.”
Elsa frowned. “What about people close to you? Besides your family?”
Honeymaren shrugged once more. “No one I was dying to spend more time with.”
“What about a boyfriend?”
Honeymaren froze. This was a leading question if she had ever heard one.
“Never had any interest in boys,” she said truthfully.
Elsa nodded. “Girlfriend?”
Honeymaren hesitated. “Never anything serious.”
Elsa nodded again. “I've never had any interest in men either.”
Honeymaren had wondered about that. She knew Elsa was attracted to Thrúd, but she hadn't known if Thrúd was the exception, or if Elsa was bisexual, or what her situation might have been.
“Women though,” Elsa said, “I find women to be lovely.”
Honeymaren knew that feeling.
“Still, I'm expected to marry someone who can give me an heir.”
“Elsa, I'm sorry,” Honeymaren said, reaching out and taking her hand without thinking about it. It felt so small and delicate in her own hand. “Have you...”
Elsa looked up. “Have I what?”
“I was just wondering if... if you've ever felt something for someone other than Thrúd. An attraction, I mean?”
Elsa nodded. “Yes. Certainly nothing as strong as what I felt for her, but there have been others.” She smiled as some memory stirred within her. “There was one time I went to a tavern. It was on the road to Corona and we'd be staying the night there. While some of my entourage wanted me to take my meal up in my room, Thrúd was able to convince them that it'd be good experience for me to eat in the main dining area. There was a serving girl there who, let's just say, caught my eye.”
“Thrúd suggested that she could arrange an encounter for me and her. She said it's normal for royals to play around a bit, and no one there even knew that I was a queen, just some kind of aristocrat.” She shook her head. “In the end I declined, but the next time Thrúd talked me through masturbation she described the sort of things I could've done to the barmaid. Or that she could've done to me.” Elsa shuddered at the memory. “I'm sorry, that's probably more details than you wanted to know.”
Honeymaren tried to give a look that said “it's alright” without giving a look that said “this is an image that will entertain me some night”. She suspected she just ended up looking a little crazed, but Elsa didn't say anything about it.
“So, do you have any marriage prospects?” Honeymaren was reluctant to ask.
Elsa sighed. “My marriage is more difficult than usual.”
“I need to marry someone in a strong political position. But if I marry someone from the nobility of another kingdom and they're too weak people will say I'm a power hungry mage looking to force my way into another kingdom. If they're too powerful people will say I'm looking to bring in foreign power to oppress the people of Arendelle. It's a delicate balancing act. Plus, I know all the nobility from Arendelle already. Those who haven't already made themselves very unappealing prospects to me are too closely related to me for my comfort.”
Honeymaren nodded. “And I don't suppose there's another option?”
Elsa looked at Honeymaren, longing in her eyes. She opened her mouth, then closed it again. Finally, she shook her head. “Not really.”
Honeymaren knew there was something more Elsa wanted to say. Something she might have almost said. But she also knew Elsa would have a good reason if she didn't share it with her, so she didn't press the matter.
Three months. Honeymaren had spent three months as Elsa's bodyguard. She wanted to say that three months was plenty of time for Elsa to separate her feelings for Thrúd from anything else, but then she remembered that Thrúd had more than a decade for feelings to develop. So she tried to keep her distance.
As she held Elsa gently in her arms, she admitted that perhaps she hadn't managed to keep her distance very well.
“Honey?” Elsa's sweet voice broke the silence.
“Hmm,” Honeymaren's acknowledgment almost came out more like a purr.
“I've been thinking about something.”
“What is it?”
Elsa sat there in silence for a moment longer before speaking. “Can you promise me something?”
Honeymaren knew that whatever Elsa wanted to talk about it was serious. They had taken to cuddling together like this some nights when Elsa felt upset or lonely. She scooted Elsa around in her lap so that she could look Elsa in the eyes. “If it's within my power, I'll promise.”
“Promise me you'll hear me out before you say anything, because I want to say something and it starts off sounding bad but it's... well, it's not how it sounds.”
Honeymaren smiled gently. “Of course. I promise.”
Elsa took a steadying breath. “I want to request a different bodyguard from Captain Mattias.”
Honeymaren almost spoke up to object, but remembered her promise and closed her mouth.
“It's not that you've done anything wrong. It's the complete opposite really. You've done more than I could've asked for.” She shook her head. “Would you be surprised if I told you that I think I've fallen in love with you?”
Honeymaren shook her head. “No, I wouldn't be surprised.” Honeymaren figured it wasn't breaking her promise to answer a direct question.
Elsa looked down. “The problem is that I'm not sure. I... I'm confused. About my feelings. About myself. What I want and what is best. None of it makes sense right now.”
Honeymaren nodded. She wondered if Anna had a conversation with Elsa about this. Or maybe Elsa thought about all of this herself. She was very smart.
“So I need some time to sort things out. And even though I think I love you, and I know I want to spend as much time with you as I can, I still get more confused every time you smile at me,” Elsa chuckled dryly. “I need some time away from you to sort out my own thoughts. Besides that, I don't know that I can really trust what you feel either. You've been forced to spend all your time with me. If you told me you love me can I really believe that? Or is it just... well, a civil version of a captive falling for their captor?”
Elsa held up a hand. “I'm sorry, I'm almost done.”
Honeymaren sighed, but settled back down.
“I want to ask Captain Mattias to give me a new bodyguard. And during that time I have things I need to think about. Things I need to learn about myself. But I don't want to say goodbye. If it's alright with you, I'd like to arrange to meet up six months from now. I have some thoughts... plans that may or may not be a good idea.” She shook her head. “Anyway, it's not the time to discuss them. Not while I'm in this state.” Elsa took a deep breath. “I think that's all.”
Honeymaren tried to gather her thoughts. “I see.” She nodded slowly. “If that's the decision you've come to, I'll go along with it. I understand needing to figure things out on your own.” She let out a big breath. “It's... it's hard to hear. I won't lie about that. But it's probably best. For both of us. You might be right about me. Maybe I'm not seeing things objectively.” Honeymaren groaned, and began to stand, stopping when she felt a pull on her shirt.
“Um, if we're going to be going our separate ways for a while starting tomorrow...” Elsa looked down, blushing, “...then could we stay like this for just a while longer tonight?”
Honeymaren paused. “Are you sure? It might make parting tomorrow more difficult?”
Elsa nodded. “I know. But, still.”
Honeymaren settled back down next to Elsa. “Anything for you.”
The months that followed were a surreal time for Honeymaren. She listened for news about Elsa and other royal goings on, but she also found herself trying to tune it out when there was news because it was hard to listen to.
“Did you hear the news?”
After being reassigned from duty as Elsa's bodyguard Honeymaren got stationed outside of the capital. The town she was in now was barely larger than her home village. She was one of three royal guards assigned to the town to keep the peace. She was counting down the days until the six months Elsa had asked for were up. They had just hit the five month mark.
“I heard that the capital is planning a royal wedding! You were stationed there before you came here right? Did you meet the queen? Who do you think the new king will be?”
Honeymaren frowned. Was Elsa really getting married? She knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but she had hoped that somehow things would work out and Elsa could avoid it. Wishful thinking, she realized.
Honeymaren blinked as her fellow guardsman waved her hand in front of her face. “Oh, sorry, what was the question?”
“I was asking if you might know something about our soon to be king?”
Honeymaren shook her head. “I don't. I'm sure it's no one local. I... understand that the queen wasn't interested in any of the local nobles.” Honeymaren wasn't sure why she had kept the details of her last assignment secret.
“Well, I heard it's not a noble. Some local commoner.”
Honeymaren hesitated. She knew about the delicate political balance Elsa had to manage. How could she manage to marry a commoner?
“I see. That's not what I expected.”
The other guardsman shrugged. “Well, I imagine most folks don't really know much about the daily goings on of the royals.”
“Yeah,” Honeymaren said, “I suppose.”
“Did you ever get to speak to royals in person?”
She shrugged. “Once or twice.”
The door to their building opened up and the third member of the town's guard entered.
“Eh hem,” he cleared his throat. “Presenting, uh, the, er, former... uh... how should I introduce you?”
“Just step aside,” a familiar voice said. Honeymaren held her breath as a slim figure in a dark blue cloak stepped into the room. Pale hands reached up and pulled down the hood.
“Els-” Honeymaren caught herself before she ran forward to hug Elsa. It was almost too much to believe that she was here in front of her.
Elsa grinned and giggled. Honeymaren almost fell over. Elsa never showed that much emotion outside of her room.
“It's okay,” she said. “I've come to invite you to join me at the wedding of my sister, Queen Anna, to our future king, Kristoff.” She paused. “As my date.”
Honeymaren gasped. The guardsman next to her let out a shrill scream of excitement.
“Sorry, sorry,” she said, looking between Elsa and Honeymaren. “I just, did I misunderstand or is this Queen Elsa asking you out on a date?”
“Um, hey, could you give us a moment here please?” Honeymaren asked.
“Of course, sure, whatever you need,” she said, stepping outside, dragging the third guardsman with her.
As soon as the door closed Elsa let out a breath she had been holding. “I'm sorry,” she said, rubbing her arm nervously. “It's been five months, and even before that you never actually said any-”
Honeymaren hugged Elsa tightly. “Did you really give up the throne?”
Elsa smiled. “I did. That was one of those things that I was thinking about. But I didn't know if I wanted to abdicate because it was best for everyone, or because it would let me be free.” She hugged Honeymaren back. “Free to be with you.”
Honeymaren looked into Elsa's clear blue eyes, tears welling up in her own. “Elsa, I've given it a lot of thought. And I want to tell you that I love you. From the first moment you showed me who you really were. I don't think I'll ever stop loving you.”
Elsa smiled, laughing and crying at the same time. “I love you too. And now I'm confident I can say that.”
Honeymaren wasn't sure if she started the kiss or if Elsa did, but neither wanted it to stop.
“So, just to be clear,” Honeymaren finally said when they broke apart for air, “you didn't abdicate the throne just for me right?”
Elsa shook her head. “Arendelle wasn't ready for a mage queen. I thought I could walk the line and rule as a mage without people thinking I was ruling because I was a mage. But nothing was ever right. And everyone close to me, as well as everyone working for the kingdom was in danger from anti-mage fanatics. So in the end I realized that the best thing I could do for Arendelle and for the future of magi in the kingdom was to abdicate. With Anna in charge people have no reason to be as hostile to Arendelle, and everyone can see that I'm not just after power. It might make people more inclined to accept magi in the future.”
“That's great!” Honeymaren said, smiling. “Still, if I'm not mistaken you said six months, and it's just been five. Couldn't keep away from me, huh?”
Elsa laughed. “It's true. Though, to be honest I was worried you wouldn't accept my affections.”
Honeymaren drew her finger across Elsa's face, tucking in a loose strand of blonde hair. “I've done a lot of thinking during this time myself. And through it all the one thing that never changed were my feelings for you.”
This time Honeymaren knew she was the one who initiated the kiss.
“Does the fact that you're no longer queen mean you can show emotions around others? Like, for example, affection for your girlfriend?” Honeymaren asked.
Elsa nodded. “It does. Also, I spoke with Captain Mattias before coming here. If you're interested he's willing to give you some time off to attend Anna's wedding, and when you return to work he has a new post in mind for you should you want it.”
“Yeah, what's that?”
“Well, there's a small village in the woods near the capital that has no guards assigned to it. I've heard it's a nice place, and it might be nice to move there myself. And while I may not be queen anymore, he thought that it might be good to have at least a part-time bodyguard around. So if you were interested you could-”
“Work in my home village and spend as much time as I like with you?”
This time the shrill excited yell was from Honeymaren.