"Boy or girl?"
Anna had giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. "We won't know until he or she is born. You know that."
"I bet the Pabbie could tell us."
"Where's the fun in that?" A quick kiss on his lips and the conversation was done.
Kristoff played the conversation over and over again in his mind as he lay on his cot in the small canvas tent. That was almost two years ago. He and Anna were newlyweds then, overwhelmed with joy at the thought of having a child of their own. Kristoff still felt like a newlywed, still felt that excitement at the thought of being a father. He wondered if Anna felt the same as she had on that day exactly one year, eleven months, and six days ago.
There was no way Kristoff could know for sure. Less than one month later, the war began. Elsa had called both him and Anna into a war room neither of them knew existed until then. When Elsa told them the news, that the King of the Southern Isles was using his youngest brother's imprisonment as an excuse to wage war against Arendelle, the young couple was speechless.
It hadn't taken Elsa long to find out what was really going on. Prince Hans had been brought home in shackles, and his brothers were intent on imprisoning him for his crimes. But then, Hans, the snake that he was, told his brothers of Arendelle's wealth and beauty, convincing them that it would be in the Southern Isles best interest to acquire Arendelle. And Hans, as he boasted, would be an invaluable asset in the war. After all, he'd been to the kingdom, inside the castle, and, most importantly, he knew about Arendelle's secret weapon. He assured his brothers that he knew a surefire way to defeat Queen Elsa and her magic.
Of course, he'd been lying about that last part. Nearly two years now and Elsa was still safe as she'd ever been. Although she hated to use her powers violently, Elsa was an indomitable force on the battlefield. She practically strolled into every battle, wearing armor made from an ice so strong that not even Kristoff could crack it.
Kristoff had also been called to fight. As it turned out, he had a mind for planning, for knowing what the right choice to make was in any situation. The war had begun on the shores of Arendelle, a battle in the sea, but Arendelle's armies pushed their way across the water and into the Southern Isles themselves. It was the combination of Kristoff's tactical skills and Elsa's magic that was bringing this war to an end quickly and with few casualties on Arendelle's side.
The thought of Hans' fate when the war was over brought a smile to his face. Maybe he'd finally get what he deserved. Kristoff only wished that he would have the honor of executing Prince Hans himself.
A shiver ran down his spine. Before this war, Kristoff would've never thought himself capable of killing anything larger than a rabbit. But now his hands were stained with blood, and he'd been away from the love of his life for nearly two years. And that was all Hans' fault. Yes, Kristoff wanted to be the one to make him pay.
Kristoff turned his thoughts back to Anna. Boy or girl? He wondered. They'd talked about names before he'd left. Heidi if the baby was a girl, Joseff for a boy. He pictured the baby's beautiful face. Anna's bright eyes with his blonde hair or maybe the baby would have his eyes and Anna's hair. Would their child have powers, like Elsa? Was that possible? He imagined is child meeting Sven, learning to ride on the reindeer's strong back.
But, that would never happen, he remembered. Sven was already incredibly old when the war began. He should've stayed behind, in Arendelle, with Anna, but he insisted on fighting by Kristoff's side. Sven didn't make it.
"Kristoff!" came a shout just outside the tent.
"What do you want?" He asked angrily. He hated to be bothered in his tent, especially this late at night. But he sat up straight when he realized it was Elsa who'd called his name. "Oh sorry, I was just... Never mind... Was there something you needed?"
"Actually, I've got good news." Elsa was smiling. Kristoff could remember the last time he'd seen Elsa smile. It was when Elsa and Anna said their goodbyes. Anna made her "pinky swear" that she would return safely. Elsa had laughed, but she promised anyway. Since then, Elsa wore her war face at all times, but, now, she was smiling as wide as she ever had. "Kristoff, the war is over."
Kristoff stood up, but then realized he had to sit back down. "Are you serious?" He asked.
"A messenger just arrived from their camp. They're surrendering. We still need to work out a treaty, but I don't think there's going to be any more fighting."
Kristoff stared down at his feet and took deep breaths. His head shot up and he said, "I need to go."
He ran out of the tent, pushing past Elsa and ignoring her when she called for him to wait. Elsa could handle things on her own from this point on. Kristoff needed to get home.
Kristoff jumped onto the first horse he saw and rode through the night, as fast as he could. Anna was waiting. Far away, in a castle full of love and joy and summer, Anna was waiting for him to come home. And their child was waiting to meet his or her father.
Boy or girl? The question kept Kristoff going for nearly two years, and he would finally have his answer.
"Faster, Sven!" He shouted, almost instinctively.
Kristoff kept riding until his horse couldn't run anymore. They stopped by a stream, where they drank, found food, and rested until morning. As soon as the sun crept over the horizon, they were off again, shooting, like lightning, across the land. Three days passed in this way, until he reached the Northern shore of the Southern Isles.
Arendelle's fleet of Naval ships were still just past the shore, protected by a maze of icy platforms and jagged glaciers that only Elsa and Kristoff knew how to navigate. Kristoff left the horse with one of the soldiers who stood guard along the shoreline. He took a deep breath before running out onto the ice, hopping from platform to platform, traveling along the only path that wouldn't lead him to a dead end or a watery grave.
Kristoff reached the closest ship and shouted for them to lower a rope. The crew recognized him and sent a rope down immediately. Kristoff wasn't even on deck before the crew began to shout questions at him. He raised a hand to silence them.
"The war is over," he said. "Take me home."
The men argued with him. What about Queen Elsa? Where was she? Was she alright? Where were the rest of the men?
"The queen is fine. Take. Me. Home." Kristoff stood tall, with his shoulders raised and broad. The tight military uniform that had once felt so foreign had, over time, become a tool that helped Kristoff gain respect among these military men. "Take. Me. Home." He repeated, with a look on his face that screamed of murderous intent.
The captain gave a signal, and the men scattered. They set sail within the hour. Kristoff spent the entire trip pacing back and forth below deck. He didn't eat, sleep, or even sit down.
Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? He kept on wondering. He kept on imagining the life he was going to be living in such a short while, a life that, at one time, he never could've imagined living.
For fear that Kristoff would jump ship and try to swim to shore, the captain waited until the gangplank was touching the dock to knock on the door and snap Kristoff out of his trance. And, as soon as he did, Kristoff ran off the ship and towards the castle.
Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Boy or girl? Kristoff was practically flying and a smile stretched across his face as though a wonderful song was playing and only he could hear it.
As he ran towards the castle, Kristoff could see that the gates were closed. He wasn't surprised. It'd be unsafe to let just anyone into the castle during a time of war. But, when the guards saw him coming, they opened the gates without hesitation.
"Anna!" he called as he threw open the castle's enormous front doors. "Anna, I'm home!"
He would've expected her to come running, but she was nowhere to be found. An elderly servant tapped his arm.
"She's in her room, dear. But I should warn you –"
"Thank you," Kristoff interrupted. He ran to the room he and Anna had shared only briefly. Thoughts of Anna, bathed in morning light as she slept beside him, came flooding into Kristoff's mind. He pictured a simple crib, bathed in that same light.
"Anna!" He exclaimed as he burst through the door with a smile on his face. But his smile faded almost instantly.
The room was dark, not a drop of sunlight pushed past the heavy curtains that covered the windows and the balcony doors. There were no lit candles on the furniture, no fire in the fireplace.
The only light in the room came from the doorway where Kristoff stood. And in that tiny bit of light, he could see Anna, who lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling as if completely frozen.
"Anna?" Kristoff whispered. A wrinkled hand pulled Kristoff into the hall. The elderly servant motioned for Kristoff to lean closer in closer, and he did as she asked.
"The stress of war, of running a kingdom on her own, of your and Queen Elsa's absences, was too much for the poor girl. The child was born much too early. The little angel didn't last the night. She never leaves her room, and she hardly eats anything we bring her. She hasn't said a single word since then, either."
Kristoff stood, silent and stunned. All at once, he was hit with the exhaustion from his journey, accompanied by a wave of sorrow and disbelief.
"Why didn't anyone tell me?" Kristoff said as he sank to his knees. He buried his face in his hands.
"We wanted to send word to you, but Princess Anna made us promise not to tell you. She didn't want to distract you or the queen from the war."
Kristoff felt the warm sting of tears pooling in his eyes. He felt the ground crumble beneath him. He thought he might die or lose his mind right then and there.
Boy or girl? The thought would not leave his mind. It was taunting him now. The dream that kept him going through the cold nights and the bloodshed was mocking him. Boy or girl? BOY OR GIRL? BOY OR GIRL? The thought turned into a shout that rang through his mind.
But then another thought crept into the forefront of his mind. It was a small and simple thought, but it forced its way through his agony. Anna.
With every ounce of strength he could gather, Kristoff rose from the ground. He looked towards Anna and took a small, heavy, step forward, then another and another and another, until he reached the bed. With his last bit of strength, he pulled back the covers and threw himself onto the bed beside Anna. She didn't move.
Kristoff began to sob as he curled himself around Anna's small and fragile frame. He tried to hold back his tears. He tried to be strong for her, but he couldn't help himself. His precious Anna lay there motionless, their child gone forever. And there was nothing he could do to make that better, nothing he could do except cry.
Hours passed and, still, Kristoff cried. All the while, Anna did not make a single sound. But then, slowly, as if it took all of her strength and willpower, she turned her head towards Kristoff.
"Boy," she whispered. Kristoff pulled Anna in close and held her as he cried. And Anna, who had held back the tears for all this time, gripped Kristoff as tightly as she could and cried as well.