Author's Note: I loved seeing the readers who were defensive about how rude some of the nobles were during the Council meeting. Elsa tries very hard to maintain self-control when it comes to her powers and her emotions, but she isn't going to let such behavior go without consequences for the offenders. You'll see.

This chapter's a bit shorter than usual for me, but it feels like a good place to move to the next chapter, and it lets me get this posted more promptly rather than wait another week.

Cover Art for the story is by the incredibly talented Trixdraws from DeviantArt. Thank you again, Trix! Please see Chapter 1 for my Standard Disclaimers!

Feel, Don't Conceal

by Jo K.

Chapter 14: Eddies in the Shallows

You're dangerous 'cause you're honest

You're dangerous, you don't know what you want

Well you left my heart empty as a vacant lot

For any spirit to haunt

-U2, "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"

"Please tell me how three of my family's biggest enemies managed to disappear, all on the same night. I really would like to hear this."

Despite the darkness in the bedchamber, the two handmaidens flinched from the anger in their princess's voice. "Your Highness, we're trying to find out exactly how this happened as we speak."

"We mean, our sisters are, of course. Since Juliana is here speaking with you and the Prince."

"One of them, Duke Hidalgo, is most likely aboard a peculiar ship docked in a less-used part of the harbor. We're trying to find out if the others are with him or not. The vessel is flying no flags but was still allowed to dock, likely thanks to a generous bribe."

"Oh, so now we have a mystery ship, too? All we need's a long-lost relative and a stormy night, and we'll have all the murder and conspiracy cliches!"

The rumble of thunder outside the castle briefly halted the conversation. A soft snicker broke the silence, despite the two handmaidens using the cover of darkness to clamp their hands over their mouths to stifle any laughter.

"It's not funny, Flynn," followed by a rustle of bedcovers, took the place of the thunder as it reverberated back into silence.

"It's a little funny!" said a male voice, mirth still evident in his words. "C'mon, Rapunzel. They're trying to find out what's going on, and Julie came to tell you right away when Hidalgo lost her in the harbor."

"It's our lives, Flynn. Those arrogant bastards want all of us dead. Plus... you know it's different now. It's going to be even worse when they find out, just like what happened last time. How they found out, I don't know, but they did, and they'll find out again. The attacks are going to start all over again, and, and—"

"Would you like us to give you two some privacy, Your Highness?" asked Greta, the handmaid stationed in their chambers tonight, increasingly uncomfortable at the emotion in her princess's voice.


"NO!" A pause followed, with the soft trickle of rain barely audible through the slit window. "Please, Flynn. Will you... Just— Just hold me tonight, okay?"

"Always, angel. Always. The girls can brief you in the morning once they know more. They won't leave you unguarded, not ever."

"Yes, You Highness," replied two voices, nearly in unison.

On the very ship of concern, Prince Wilhelm of the Southern Isles and Duke Ernesto Hidalgo, head of one of Corona's oldest noble houses, were enjoying a meal composed of traditional Coronan cuisine, with guards and cannons both ensuring that no one drew close to the ship, either via the wooden dock or in the bay.

"I must say, Prince Wilhelm," said Hidalgo, twirling a fork in the air as he spoke. "I found your initial proposal to be intriguing, though quite risky. However, after considering the potential gain for both our families—and Corona, of course, of course—I think we might be able to come to an arrangement."

Wilhelm lifted his glass of dark wine, offering a silent toast to the duke as he finished his bite of food. As he swallowed, he said, "It must seethe the soul of a true son of Corona, to watch as that stripling cripples Corona's navy."

"Indeed, indeed," replied the duke, nodding his full but not quite fat face. "I can certainly understand the need to protect one's family, but one's country must come before some distant cousins trapped in a mess of their own making. Throwing our ships into a bloody war against two other empires who pose no threat to us is pure folly. It shows just how unfit the bitch is to rule."

"And I hear her father grows weaker by the day," Wilhelm added. He had omitted some of the details of Arendelle's battle against Karelia and Glavadia—most notably, that the battles were likely already over. That bit of news would arrive soon enough, but the sheer thought of Corona's navy, the pride of the Western Ocean, being frittered away was enough to get the duke and his traditionally seagoing family enraged.

Hidalgo nodded between bites of the delicately seasoned pork. "The physicians remain unsure of whether it is a long-lasting poison or some unknown malady affecting him, but there's no doubt he's losing his battle with it, whatever it is."

"Should I wish for a miraculous recovery?" Wilhelm asked, a cold smile on his face.

Hidalgo's face remained carefully neutral for a few seconds before he allowed an equally predatory smirk to appear. "That might be a bit much," he said with a humorless laugh. "But it would be nice if he outlived his bitch daughter. That way he could watch his family line die before he followed them into the afterlife."

"And you possess enough influence to claim the throne for yourself once the king is gone?"

Hidalgo nodded. "Well, once that unkillable harlot is finally dead." He paused eating to look directly at Wilhelm. "She's survived seven assassination attempts that I'm aware of, including a crossbow bolt to the chest and a dagger in her gut."

Wilhelm's eyes widened slightly. "Do you think she possesses some magic as well? Does it run in her family, as with her Arendellan cousin?"

A spirited shake of the duke's head threatened to fling droplets of wine from his neatly trimmed beard. "No, nothing so exotic. She's luckier than anyone I've ever seen. Plus, she constantly surrounds herself with those damned handmaidens, and the cowardly bitch has no qualms about throwing them in front of her when trouble starts."

"Not the bravest strategy, certainly, but it appears to be an effective one."

"That it is," Hidalgo agreed with a forlorn nod. He resumed his dinner again, quiet for nearly a minute before he spoke again. "The poor girls are like some cult, all dressed in these blue silk robes. They're not allowed to talk without her direct permission. They're kept in the castle until Rapunzel leaves, then they have to follow her wherever she goes, like ducklings following a mother. At least five or six of them have been killed trying to protect her, and they'll still put themselves between her and an assassin's blade!"

"Where does she find them?" asked Wilhelm, curious about the degree of indoctrination that must have been required to instill such loyalty.

"The only one I was able to convert to my cause was a prostitute before she was 'recruited' into their service. She thought it'd get her out of the alleys, but she quickly realized she had been safer in the shadows and gutters than she was with the princess."

"So you have one of them working for you," Wilhelm said quietly. "Most intriguing. How did you persuade her?"

"Poor girl was thrown into the path of two sellswords during an attack on the princess last year. She says the princess herself was the one who shoved her at them. Got herself stabbed in the flank and slashed across her belly as a result; she lived, but only just. She's not crippled exactly, but she'll never walk right again and likely never be able to bear children. She still suffers terrible pains day to day. When she couldn't go back to waiting on the princess hand and foot, they threw her out of the castle."

Wilhelm continued to listen attentively, nodding for the duke to continue after he paused to take a drink of his wine.

"So she tried to go back to whoring, but it was too painful due to her injuries. One of my boys, who felt bad about the obvious pain she was in after he had, ah, paid for her services, told me she had no love lost for the princess, so I graciously took her in and gave her honest employment. She can't do too much, but she helps with light cleaning and errands. After a few weeks she opened up about what exactly had happened to her, and once she realized I wasn't going to throw her out on the street for her past association with Corona's royal family, she proved to be quite helpful with obtaining information from inside the castle."

"Has her information borne fruit yet?"

Now Hidalgo appeared to hesitate. "She has provided some significant information which has proven to be correct, but I was biding my time before striking based on the girl's information. Rapunzel may be a coward, but she learns damned fast. I fear I'll only have a single attempt at her from this girl's intelligence before she's found out and her usefulness comes to an end."

He pushed his plate aside and leaned back in the wooden chair, swirling his wine in his cup. "This is why when you approached me with your suggestion to combine our forces and solve both our problems at once, I was quite eager to hear your proposal."

Wilhelm nodded, pushing his own plate aside. "You gain control of Corona, reclaim her powerful armada and return them to their rightful place—here, defending their home. I eliminate the single greatest threat to my own family's reign in the Southern Isles and gain control of Arendelle and its rich resources at the same time."

Hidalgo laughed. "Perhaps your father should have stopped after just three or four boys!" he boomed jovially. "By the time you finish fighting each other, there might be no kingdom left!"

Wilhelm frowned briefly before willing a calm smile back onto his face. "The unrest created by a few of my younger brothers will soon be eliminated. One has already been captured and executed; the other four will follow soon enough. But Arendelle must be kept out of the fray. After the unmitigated disaster that fool of a brother of mine incited up there, Arendelle's royal sisters have shown—and understandably so—very hostile feelings toward my country. I've negotiated some measures to pacify them while their kingdom crumbles beneath them, but I want to ensure that Elsa and her powers do not jeopardize my family's sway over the Southern Isles."

Hidalgo nodded. "I understand that concern. I heard several accounts of how she froze the entire country, harbors and all."

"All shockingly true, and more. I saw some of the beasts she created with my own eyes, dragons as big as a frigate. She set them upon the Glavadians, with impressive results."

"Ha, I imagine so!" Hidalgo laughed. "The fanatics finally met something they couldn't preach to or intimidate. How fitting. And you have something to deal with those creatures, I imagine?"

Wilhelm nodded. "I expect she'll have more uses of her powers that I haven't thought of, so I've tried to be open-minded in terms of preparing the invasion fleet. However, challenging her openly will be courting death, so I would prefer her eliminated in a more... indirect manner. And that, my good duke, is your forte."

Hidalgo stroked his beard as he thought. "And you can get both Rapunzel and Elsa together?"

"I believe so. Eliminating them both at once will create more than enough chaos for you to seize Corona's throne and my invasion fleet to take Arendelle once the Coronan armada is on our side. Arendelle's army remains split between the capitol and the eastern border, and her poor navy has been decimated, leaving them defenseless to an invasion once the armada shifts to my side."

"You'll have to get Elsa's sister, too. I've already heard about how headstrong she is, and once her sister is dead she'll likely be willing to burn Arendelle to the ground to have her revenge upon us. I've also heard the rumors that they're into more than just sisterly affection, to be polite."

"Oh, she's integral to my plan, I assure you. And those rumors are no longer just rumors. Elsa herself confirmed it to her subjects several weeks ago. That was the spark that triggered the attempted insurrection. Karelia and Glavadia both went to war with them, but they were unable to overcome Elsa's magic and were defeated."

Hidalgo gestured toward Wilhelm with his nearly empty glass. "And how do you plan on dealing with her magic? Do you have some magic of your own, hidden in your castle's vaults?"

Wilhelm smiled confidently, pointedly neither confirming nor denying the duke's suspicion. "In this case, Elsa's most prized possession—her sister Anna—is also her greatest weakness." He leaned forward, ensuring that none of the guards outside his cabin could overhear his words. "My informants and I have observed them closely, both alone and together, and it seems that Elsa's powers weaken when in close proximity to her sister. Even when I most deliberately provoked her to try and stir her anger, so long as Anna is close to her, her powers were never able to manifest despite her anger. Separate them, however, and Elsa's power again rises in conjunction with her emotions. The one time Elsa's powers were in full effect while her sister was present happened at her coronation, and it was confirmed that the two of them argued fiercely and angrily immediately before her powers went wild.

"Several witnesses at the moment where her sister was frozen but returned to life reported hearing Elsa whisper, 'Love thaws,' and she's mentioned the same words several times since when asked about how she's now able to control her powers, where before they were a danger to everyone around her. So it appears that negative emotions such as fear and anger increase her powers, while positive emotions such as love and affection decrease them."

Hidalgo considered Wilhelm's words, nodding thoughtfully as he did so. "So remove the love Elsa and her sister feel for each other, and her powers are uncontrolled. Put them together, and her powers wane. It appears the two truly do appear to love each other in inappropriate ways," he mused.

"Yes, and that love might have saved them once against my foolish youngest brother, but this time it will prove to be their undoing," said Wilhelm. "If her powers ebb in the presence of love, then the ideal time to strike will be when she is not only distracted but also lost in the depths of her twisted 'love' for her sister."

"You plan to strike when they are... together, then?" asked the duke; for the first time during their conversation, he appeared the least bit uncomfortable.

With a grim nod, Wilhelm replied, "Absolutely, either then or immediately after, when they have drifted off to sleep. Otherwise, an assassin would be dead before he was in range to strike." He looked seriously at Hidalgo. "I plan to take no chances with Elsa. Multiple assassins, striking quickly while she is defenseless in every way. We can easily eliminate her sister at the same time."

Hidalgo regarded Wilhelm for long seconds. "You are indeed ruthless," he finally said, allowing a thin grin to creep across his face.

"I prefer the term 'determined'."

"Yes, I imagine you do. And how exactly do you propose to get our assassins close enough to Elsa to strike?"

The change from second person to first person in the duke's speech was not lost on Wilhelm, and he allowed himself a small measure of pride internally at the duke's implied allegiance. "Why, with Princess Rapunzel's help, of course," he said calmly as he reached for another drink of his wine. "And the unwitting assistance of one of your rivals whom you don't mind sacrificing."

In Arendelle, Elsa awoke to a sharp intake of breath beside her, followed by muttered cursing.

"Anna, what's wrong?" she said sleepily as she rolled over to face her sister, twisted to her right and clutching her bruised ribs. "Oh, love, did you roll over on them again?" Elsa asked tenderly. Anna's ribs were already hurting after the battle, but they had seemed to increase in intensity around the second or third day after the injury.

Despite her face contorted in pain and teeth gritted, Anna managed to shake her head no. "Cramp!" she whispered through her teeth, rolling to her left to present her right side to Elsa.

Elsa felt her eyes water at the bruises over Anna's right side. There were several smaller bruises her wife had sported after the battle a few days ago, most notably the bruise and lump on the right side of her head, but her ribs were definitely the worst. Elsa quickly laid her left hand across Anna's side, fingers gently resting over the most swollen and bruised area. The royal physician had declared that at least two ribs were broken, possibly more. He had ultimately declared that Anna needed total rest for at least two to four weeks. Elsa was afraid their lovemaking the first two days after the battle had made things worse for her wife, and she had put sex on hold for the last few days.

At the soothing touch of Elsa's powers, Anna felt the cold spread across her cramping intercostal muscles, soothing the pain from their tightness and the broken ribs. Elsa continued, creating a patch of ice over the affected area; she allowed herself to smile when she felt the rest of her wife's body begin to relax and saw a smile again stretch between her lightly freckled cheeks.

"Thank you," Anna whispered gratefully. "Thank you so, so much."

Elsa leaned forward to kiss her wife's lips. She felt Anna's left hand tangle through her loose hair, holding her mouth in place for several seconds. "Careful," Elsa teased. "You're going to get all worked up and then not be able to finish."

"Frigga's skirt," Anna whispered harshly, opening her eyes to look up into Elsa's sapphire blue gaze. "This total rest thing is really pissing me off."

"I can understand the physician's concern, Anna," Elsa said mildly. "You do get quite enthusiastic when we make love."

"I can handle the pain," Anna said resolutely. She started to cross her arms but stopped at the twinge of pain in her right side. "It'd be worth it," she added confidently. "And you know you want to do it, too."

Elsa couldn't argue with that. They had settled for kissing, cuddling and only touching each other briefly for three days, and she was starting to get a bit antsy herself. Anna in all her sensual, sexual glory was enthralling, practically a religious experience for Elsa, and Elsa knew she would be powerless to resist Anna if her younger sister pushed for more intimacy now, regardless of her injured ribs.

Elsa shifted to lie next to Anna as her thoughts skipped backward. When she was with Anna, touching her wife, professing her love and pleasing her, bringing joy and happiness to her body and soul, she felt she was part of something greater than just their bodies. She was lifting Anna's soul, along with her own. Their caresses, kisses, touching united them in a way that had quickly grown holy to them both, a ritual more sacred than anything else they knew. Making love to Anna really was like a religious experience for her.

Elsa had lost faith in the gods years ago, after several years of isolation and growing despair. While her powers had definitely come from somewhere, they were much more of a curse than a gift, and if the gods had indeed bestowed them upon Elsa, then twelve-year-old Elsa wanted nothing more than to find the god or goddess responsible and stuff those powers up his or her godly ass.

She had respected the people's right to believe in the gods, as she felt one's own beliefs were something deeply personal, but she had long ago decided that she had no use for religion or worship of anything. However, the connection she and Anna shared had now managed to cast some doubt on her angry dismissal of a higher purpose beyond the world they could see, hear and feel. She still wasn't ready to believe the gods were relevant or worthwhile, but she could certainly believe in something valuable which couldn't be seen, heard, touched or taken, something above the mortal world. All she had to do was look at Anna.

"So are we gonna have sex or what?"

Elsa looked over at her wife, a knowing grin on Anna's face as she ran the fingers of her right hand slowly beneath her small but perfect right breast, quite deliberately giving Elsa a little show. Despite the dark bruises and small scratches still visible from the battle several days ago, she was stunningly beautiful, and she and Elsa both knew it.

Elsa sighed. She knew when she was beaten. "Fine, but you get to start with me. If your ribs do okay, then I'll give you your turn."

Anna looked at Elsa, eyes sparkling. "You know, normally I'd give you a hard time over negotiating with me like that, but really it's still a win-win for both of us."

"That it is," Elsa agreed as she pushed her long blonde hair back behind her head and made herself comfortable, already smiling before Anna's body sprang into motion.

The rest of the day and most of the next day was spent catching up on business, with Anna focusing on official correspondence and castle affairs and Elsa helping plan Arendelle's rebuilding, both physically and economically. Both of them threw themselves into their work, and so they were both ready for a mental break by the next afternoon.

"Let's go for a walk!" Anna said as she let herself into Elsa's office, where her wife was poring over the military and material losses from the last month's fighting. "Come on!" she said, grabbing the lace sleeve of Elsa's formal dress. This one was a brilliant turquoise, similar in hue to the very first ice gown she made for herself but more light in tone.

"Can't you just go for a walk and tell me about it later?" Elsa groaned as she looked up from the ledger open in front of her.

"Nope!" Anna was decidedly too cheery, something that made Elsa suspect she had made a quick stop by the kitchen, likely hitting the confectionery before coming here.

Elsa sighed loudly. Not even that ruffled Anna's happy expression. "Fine," she said glumly, offering her hand to her young wife. She wasn't entirely prepared for how aggressively Anna yanked her out of her chair, though, and Elsa nearly stumbled over her desk in the process.

"Oops," Anna said quietly. "Sorry! I was just so excited about us getting to see the city, to get out of this castle after the last few days!" She kissed Elsa on the cheek quickly, drawing a slight smile from her wife. "Plus you get way too dreary after you've been reading all these damage reports. You need to get back out into the city and see what's going on now."

"I'm trying to figure out how we lost so many ships," Elsa said as they walked down the main hall. "There wasn't that much naval combat around Arendelle, according to Admiral Kaarsen."

"Well, you can go back to your books when we get back to the castle," Anna said with determination as she slipped Elsa's right arm through her own left arm. "Today, we're getting out and seeing Arendelle again!"

As the modest procession moved across the bridge outside the castle, Elsa and Anna moved to the front, leading the way despite the advice of the castle guards with them. Six of them accompanied the two queens, with Ygrit and Idunn walking directly behind Elsa and Anna and the guards behind them. Today Anna was on the left as they walked, arms interlaced as they normally did when together. Idunn and Ygrit matched their pacing, but the two handmaidens steadfastly avoided any displays of affection between them. Handmaidens were forbidden from such relationships, regardless of whether it involved two women or a woman and a man, and while the queens were entirely fine with the secret relationship between Idunn and Ygrit, decorum still had to be maintained. Ygrit had grumbled about not being allowed to carry a weapon, but Idunn had quickly soothed her feelings with a few whispers before they left.

As they made their way through the streets of Arendelle, Elsa was struck by the goodwill readily on display. It wasn't just directed at her and Anna, although a great deal of it was; what truly struck Elsa was how the people of Arendelle were working together to rebuild. She saw no arguments as they made their way through the city, no disputes over territory, no debates about the propriety of Arendelle's two queens being sisters yet being in love. Guards were helping craftsmen re-frame ruined houses, competing merchants shared space in the marketplace while damaged stalls were being rebuilt; cooperation seemed to be the order of the day, and it lifted Elsa's spirits endlessly to see it.

"Hey, can we go see the work on the new school and the orphanage?"

Anna's question brought Elsa out of her thoughts. She turned to see her wife looking up at expectantly, curiosity and a hint of something else in her eyes. "Of course we can," Elsa said, getting a beaming smile in return from the younger sister she loved more than anything.

"Thanks!" Anna replied happily, shifting their arms so they were holding hands now as they walked at a relaxed pace. It felt incredibly good to be able to openly hold Elsa's hand, to just be themselves without worrying what anyone thought. If they come across some Arendellans who disagreed with their relationship, those people had kept it to themselves.

They wound up spending more time than expected at the buildings repurposed to house the orphanage and school for the city. Idunn and Ygrit had both spent comparatively little time at the orphanage before they had been sent to the castle to become handmaidens, but they both wanted to express their thanks to the matrons who had recommended them for the opportunity. The boys and girls were giddy with excitement at getting to meet Arendelle's queens, and they showed no fear of Elsa or her powers, much to the blonde's delight. When she created a group of miniature snowmen for them to play with, she found herself briefly alone as the throng of children raced through the plaza between the buildings.

That solitude was broken when a familiar body sat next to Elsa before letting out a tired sigh. "I think I'm worn out," Anna said wearily. "Ribs are starting to ache again."

"You're healing fast, Anna, but you really shouldn't be overdoing it," Elsa said.

"Do you think your powers have something to do with it?" asked Anna, getting Elsa to turn her head in surprise. "I'm serious, Elsa. It's not even been a week, but I can tell they're a lot better. Every time you ice them, it takes more of the pain away."

"I..." Elsa said, hesitantly. "I- I don't think my powers work that way, Anna. I mean, I can create things and I can... hurt things, but I can't heal things."

Anna thought about that as she shifted her body to lean more against Elsa, putting her arms around her wife's waist. "Maybe it's just the way they work with me then." She looked around at the large houses and smaller buildings in the plaza. "What was here before?" she asked Elsa. "I don't think I've ever been here."

Elsa smiled pleasantly. "You haven't been here before. It used to be a private retreat for one the nobles who won't be needing it anymore."

"Oh," Anna said, her tone distant. After a few seconds, her eyes grew wide. "OH!" She turned to look at Elsa.

Elsa matched her look with a calm but knowing smile. "Let's just say it isn't a wise idea to be rude to either of Arendelle's Queens," she said, looking around at the houses, buildings and the children and workers occupying them. "Baron Stinnson has just learned that lesson. I personally think that his little enclave here in the city makes a wonderful new location for the orphanage and school, don't you?"

Anna grinned as she laughed. "You, sister and wife of mine, are positively naughty."

"He won't miss it too much. I'm keeping his staff on to care for the properties and to help with the school and orphanage, of course. I haven't decided if I'll give it back to him after the school and orphanage are rebuilt. His apology to you after the Council was nice, if a bit late."

Anna slowly stretched her neck to kiss Elsa softly. "You're a great queen," she said. "Rather than lose your temper during the Council meeting, you managed to get back at one of those jerks and did something really nice for Arendelle at the same time."

Elsa waited, but Anna wasn't saying anything else. "What aren't you saying, my love?" she finally asked gently.

Anna idly kicked at a pebble with her shoe, sending it skittering across the plaza. "All I managed to do was lose my temper and yell at them," she said with a sigh.

"Hey," replied Elsa, lifting Anna's head up. "You did more than that. You addressed their complaints and still shut them up. And you'll learn to do the rest, Anna. You're already learning faster than I did."

"Yeah, but I still wish I'd thought of something like this for that other guy who was ugly to us during Council."

Elsa lifted one of Anna's braids, twirling it between her fingertips. "You mean, something like, oh, forcing him to donate a large amount of his goods to the city, then charge substantially lower prices to everyone involved with the rebuilding of Arendelle?"

"Yeah, like that," Anna replied glumly as Elsa tickled her ear with her coppery braid. She giggled at the sensation on her ear, then again as Elsa repeated the teasing, this time on her lightly freckled nose. "Hey, wait!" Anna said abruptly. "You did?"

Elsa's happy smile grew larger. "I did," she said. "And considering my alternative was to turn his warehouses into the largest blocks of ice in the country after I had seized everything in them, I think Skalbryd made a wise choice." She stood, helping Anna to her feet at the same. "Come on," Elsa said, leading Anna forward. "We still have more of the city to see," she said with a smile, "and I can't think of anyone I'd rather spend the rest of this day with."

Across the sea in Corona, Rapunzel paced the length of her salon repeatedly. She hadn't been able to eat much the entire day, with recent events making her nauseous even thinking about food. Four handmaidens stood in the room with her, one by each door and two on her side of the room by the windows. One of Corona's nobles had come to the castle earlier that day with a story regarding a plot to assassinate the king and Rapunzel both, and a detachment of soldiers were currently investigating. Flynn had insisted on going with them, citing the direct threat to his wife, and she had been unable to stop him. He was determined to protect her, now more than ever. She stopped pacing and looked out the window, her hands going to her stomach unconsciously.

It was exactly thirty-six feet from the window to the ground. She knew this, because she had it measured her first week in the castle.

She turned her head, her blonde hair flowing slightly behind her movement. She would not lose this baby. They wouldn't lose this baby. Not again. The last time she was pregnant, the assassination attempts doubled, despite the pregnancy not being public knowledge. She was terrified that the cycle would happen all over again this time.

She turned to one of the handmaidens nearest her, one slightly taller than the other in their matching blue silk robes. "Cristina," she said, seeing the young woman step forward.

"Yes, Your Highness?"

"Please bring me a pen and parchment. I need to get a letter to my cousins in Arendelle as quickly and quietly as possible. Tell no one other than my personal courier, and use that exact phrase; she knows what arrangements to make for delivery."

As the young woman hurried out of the room, Rapunzel sat by the fireplace. Maybe it was time for a little vacation. Preferably somewhere where no one would try to kill her.

Author's Afterword: Please note that the Duke's opinions on Rapunzel do not reflect the views or feelings of this author. Direct your anger and flames toward the grouchy old man who wants to overthrow Corona's royal family.

If you paid attention, you realized that Wilhelm's got one very important point entirely wrong when it comes to Elsa's powers. His observations individually were correct and his research was fairly thorough, but it's a matter of adding 1 and 1 and getting 4. He isn't aware of that yet.

See you soon!