The smell of briny saltwater and what seemed like dried fish hung heavy in the air, but odors such as these are common in Arendelle, where the sea and all its creatures was the bounty of the country.
But now is not the time for history lessons, as more important matters at stake were awaiting discussion. Jack Frost, Royal Bodyguard of the Arendelle princesses, Elsa and Anna, had come back after a four-month tour throughout the empire in an attempt to find some support.
A massive plague had swept through Arendelle, the great capital of the Katzen-Lasse Empire – it all started near the beginning of the year, at first people in the middle and lower class districts started noticing an infestation of plague-ridden rats in their streets. For a time pest-control seemingly managed to contain the infestation for the first two months, but in the weeks that followed, more rats began cropping up and soon half the people of Arendelle found themselves under attack by an outbreak of plague that ate away at the population and ravenous man-eating killing machines that many witnesses claimed tore whole human beings apart. Attempts to ration and distribute medicine and supplies became more and more difficult, as the number of people who became infected outgrew the amount of stockpile needed to treat them.
And in a sad twist of fate, the King of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna's father, perished while trying to allay the fears at a gathering of citizens by the central square of the city; a riot broke out when rats were suddenly flushed into the square and people scrambled to escape from the fearsome rodents, and in all the commotion, the King and his entourage were trampled by the crowd before he was devoured by the ravenous horde of rats that killed nearly everyone else.
The Royal family was unable to initiate a funeral and mourn for him because they needed to sterilize his body thoroughly for a week before a proper burial could be carried out. His death led to propositions of extreme measures from various Royal Advisors and Parliamentary dignitaries to his wife, the Queen of Arendelle, who assumed control over the Empire's secular management following the Central Square Incident.
In spite of mounting pressure from the political bigwigs and assorted members of the aristocracy, she refused to resort to inhumane measures such as socio-economic quarantining (since most of the infected were either middle-class or impoverished) and on-site executions of citizens who displayed signs of infection, regardless if said signs were related to the plague or not.
It was then that Jack was sent to the vassal provinces of the Empire to see if they could provide some relief for the beleaguered and besieged city, and now he was on his way back to deliver his report to her Majesty.
He and a small group of Arendelle marines cast off from the ship he had returned from and loaded themselves onto a dinghy, bound for the drydock of the Castle.
"So, Master Frost, how do you think her Majesty will take the report?" asked one of the marines.
"I can only imagine she'll react to it the same way I did."
"Is there nothing we can do to save Arendelle?" Another chimed in, a forlorn tone evident in his voice.
Jack turned and smiled to him, "I'm sure there'll be a light at the end of this tunnel, have faith."
They entered the huge drydock scant minutes later, at the bottom of a multi-floored shaft; one of the marines signaled to the engineers several stories high, and the tall entrance to the drydock sealed shut behind them, as did several doors along the length of the long shaft of the facility. Pipes along the side slid open and water began filling the interior, raising the dinghy up from the bottom of the shaft like an elevator.
Once they reached the top, gangplanks were extended and the passengers left the dinghy, Jack in particular wanted to get his little report to the queen as quickly as possible. He was lead into the glorious reception hall, and waiting for him, as always when he left for serious business on behalf of the Royalty, was Anna, his surrogate younger sister of many years.
"Jack, you've returned!" Anna was the first to approach him, giving him a big, warm hug. Jack regarded Anna as something of a little sibling growing up, always wanting to play games and eager for news about his travels.
On the other hand, the older of the two, Elsa, was always away learning the prim and proper decorum of Royalty, since she was expected to inherit the throne of Katzen-Lasse within the next decade or so. Elsa was certainly a different matter entirely, to Jack she was a princess, first and foremost, but she was also smart and shrewd, and between them stood a friendly, if heated, rivalry to see who was the more clever of the two, pitting themselves in various contests to see who was the better. Some saw their rivalry as a cheap facade to hide alleged romantic feelings, taboo circumstances for a princess and her Royal Bodyguard to find themselves.
"Where is your sister, Anna?"
"She's in her room, studying like always. She never wants to play with me anymore, just studies and lessons in royal manners and whatnot."
Jack stifled a laugh, "Can you blame her?"
"Yes," Anna responded rather bluntly.
Giggling like idiots going along their way, they proceeded first to Elsa's room, where she was going over a little book in her hands. They knocked on her door.
"You may enter,"
The doors flung open and Jack allowed himself in first while Anna watched from outside.
"Jack, you've returned," Elsa placed her book gently back on the side table before moving towards him, arms wide open and moving in for a big embrace.
Anna smiled at them before she saw her cue and closed the doors behind them, leaving them to their more private affairs. Elsa and her bodyguard shared a deep kiss before they moved towards the sofa in a corner of her room.
"I've been waiting for four months, three days, five hours, thirty minutes, and as of this moment, sixteen seconds anticipating your arrival."
Jack looked at her incredulously, "You've done literally nothing but time my return home?"
"I've got nothing else to pass the time. I mean, I occasionally get to play chess with Anna, and maybe a little casual children's games like hide-and-seek or tag, but I need an opponent who I consider my equal, which is why, yes, I've done nothing but count the moments gone by until you returned."
Jack snickered before descending into outright laughter, and so did Elsa when the sheer stupidity of her waiting game dawned upon her. But after all was said and done, they moved to more serious matters.
"So... what's the word? Are the other provinces willing to provide help for Arendelle."
Jack shook his head, sighing deeply as he looked at the report in his hands, "They... are hesitant to send aid. Especially after what happened to your father, the King, they don't want to send their own people to their deaths just like that."
Elsa didn't say anything, instead she rose from the sofa and moved to pour some Maldonian wine into a glass goblet, "I see."
Jack took note of the crack in her voice, he rose and approached her, "Elsa, I know this seems like it's getting worse, but we'll make it. You're father would have wanted you to be strong in a time like this."
She looked at Jack with eyes filled with anger and pain written about it, she spoke, her voice tearing apart as she did so, "Jack, I know you're just trying to make me feel better, I really do, and I appreciate all you're doing for us, but..." Elsa raised the goblet and cast it towards the nearby wall, shattering it into a million pieces before crumpling into a sobbing mess on the floor.
"...they can't abandon us like this!" Elsa was literally spouting her anger like there was no tomorrow, "Arendelle is dying and they're sitting on their tushes while the rats close in on us! There are people out there, Jack, people with friends and families who are dying! Hospitals are filled to the brim running out of medicine, mutilated bodies are lining the back-alleys, people being forced out of their homes! Riots everywhere!"
Jack dashed to her side and cradled her in his arms, Elsa cared deeply for her citizens like any true monarch would, but the fact she could do nothing while her people were dropping like flies all around her broke her heart, "I can't stand it, Jack, I... I can't. The smell of death is everywhere, I hate it."
He soothed her as best he could, although they were rivals on an intellectual level and greatly valued their rivalry, even Jack knew there was a time to be friends as much as being enemies, and this was one of those times where it was expected of him to be the former.
Anna opened the door to the room, peeking inside, "Jack, Elsa, are you all right?"
Jack nodded, "We're okay, Anna, anything the matter?"
"Mother wanted to see you now. Um, is now a bad time?"
Elsa shook her head, "No, no, it's all right, Anna, Jack can go see her now."
Jack and Elsa exchanged looks, "It'll be all right in the end, Elsa, if it's not all right, it's not the end."
Elsa smiled weakly, taking Jack's words to heart, "Thank you, Jack, you always did know what to say."
Jack departed for the lookout balcony of the Castle, a wide-open outcropping decorated with flowers and with a gazebo built by the edge, overlooking the bay of Arendelle and the roof of the drydock.
(Pay attention to the drydock roof)
The Queen of Arendelle and her Head of Domestic Security, Duke Weselton, were discussing important matters regarding the state of Arendelle as it stood.
"Look, your Highness, I understand your sympathy but desperate times call for desperate measures."
"...and I am not that desperate yet!" The Queen exclaimed, "There is no need to initiate such widespread quarantining right now."
Duke Weselton had been a proponent of the more extreme measures advocated by the high-class citizens, something the Queen was not at all happy about.
"Excuse me, your Highness?" Jack approached them while they were in the middle of a heated conversation.
"Oh, Master Frost, you've returned," she motioned Weselton to leave them. As he did so, he paused by Jack briefly, gazing upon him with that snobby look like a practiced aristocrat.
"Welcome back, Master Frost, you're looking a little thin around the waist, Jack, don't want to waste away for the little lady now, would we?"
Jack scowled, everyone knew of "rumors" circulating among the populace of his "alleged" affair with Princess Elsa. Jack had a mind to chastise the impudent Duke for talking about Elsa like she was some soiled dove of a backwater bordello making "merry" with a farmboy from Burgess (who just happened to be the Royal Bodyguard), but he had more important matters to attend to.
He approached the Queen, bowing respectfully before her, he handed her the parchment bearing his report. The Queen stood by the edge of the gazebo, examining the content of the report before closing it and clutching the bridge of her nose in exasperation.
"Jack, what am I going to do? Everywhere I turn it seems like Death itself wants to reduce our glorious city to ruin."
He smiled weakly, feeling the immense pressure she must be feeling, all leaders do when faced with disaster, "I know, your Highness, but so far I think the measures we're using is working so far. The number of infected has noticeably reduced since the incident."
She sighed, "You're always so positive Jack, I envy that about you. I only wish it were easy enough to say that to the masses."
Jack sighed, "What can I say? I used to like watching tragedies play on the theatre, but I realized somewhere along the line that real life is tragic enough without having to rub it in everyone's faces."
The door by the far end of the wall opened and the two princesses emerged into the room, "Mother, may we come in?" Elsa called out, catching their attention.
"Oh, Elsa, Anna, yes come in, please."
Anna approached her, arms spread out for a hug, "I hope we didn't bother you two on important matters or whatnot."
"No, you came in just as we were about to wrap up, actually." Anna left and proceeded to the little flower trough to see how the little blossoms were doing, Elsa decided to speak with her mother regarding the report.
"So, mama, what are we going to do now?"
"I don't know, dear, I just don't know. The Academy's top medical scientists are working as fast as they can to develop an affordable but permanent cure, so far all we have is Professor Cornelius Robinson's Elixir and the Peabody Remedy, but we're horrendously underfunded to mass-produce them."
"Can't we just get the major companies to give us loans or something?"
"I'm afraid it's not that easy, Elsa, even if it results in a permanent cure, it will ruin the economy. I want to end this plague as much as anyone else here, but I also need to think of the long-term future prosperity of the Empire."
Elsa seemed a bit crestfallen, "Oh Elsa, I know how you feel, but trust me, I know what I'm doing better than anybody."
Anna looked up and saw something on the drydock roof, "Um, guys?"
"I know Mother, but I just can't take it anymore, nothing's been normal ever since this plague started."
Anna could see they were people on the roof of the drydock, "Guys."
"Elsa, it may seem to be getting worse, but I have faith Arendelle will recover from this and be greater than ever."
Anna shouted, "Guys! There are people on the roof of the drydock!"
Everyone turned to look at strange-dressed men on the drydock. At a signal from another, two of the men jumped off the roof, seemingly towards the water below, only to the surprise of everyone on the balcony when they vanished for a split second and re-appeared moments later on the balcony, Anna gasped as she fell on her back. The strange men were wearing thick brown leather cloaks and hoods, their faces obscured by frightening masks made of animal skulls. They each pulled a straight dagger and menacingly moved for Anna.
"Anna!" Elsa moved quickly and stretched her arms, frost shooting forth from her fingertips and freezing the two assassins, Jack jumped in and using his own brand of sorcery summoned a hook-tipped staff from his hands and shattered the two hitmen to pieces before the floor. Jack picked Anna up and motioned her, the Queen and Elsa to leave and find the guards.
Anna was trying to drag Elsa out the room to do as he requested, "Jack, I won't leave you!"
Three more assassins emerged and Jack raised his staff defensively against them, "Go!"
Elsa and Anna both managed to rush out of the room, but when the Queen tried to follow them, one of the assassins somersaulted over Jack and attempted to stab the Queen with his drawn blade, who was forced to close the door so he wouldn't go after her daughters.
Perhaps peeved by her little stunt, the assassin turned his attention to her, ducking behind a suit of display armor and deflecting a few of his strikes.
Jack summoned an icy axe-like blade along the outer side of the hook and swiped it against his assailant, decapitating him and becoming mildly surprised when the assassin's body simply vanished into thin air, leaving a trail of black smoke. From out of the smoke came another assassin who rushed from behind the dead one, seeking to slay Jack.
Without another thought, Jack turned the length of his staff into a long, needle-sharp icicle spike, and stabbed other man in the face, causing him to vanish into the air as well, but before Jack could turn and help the cornered Queen, he was suddenly struck by a strange force that blew him some measure through the room.
Another man, dressed in pitch black clothes and wearing a metal-studded mask fashioned from a human skull, walked towards Jack with one hand raised, his fingers glowing with an eerie light before the Bodyguard; in a split second both of Jack's arms were suspended in the air by some invisible force, shackling him to the spot while the assassin moved towards the Queen, lashed to one of the pillars of the gazebo by the other assassin with a belt around her wrists.
Without a moment's hesitation, the skull-faced assassin brandished his dagger and dug it into the Queen's abdomen.
Jack watched helplessly as the Queen screamed in pain as the assassin twisted his weapon in her gut. Once he was finished, he and his partner both jumped away from the balcony, whatever sorceries keeping Jack in the air dissipating with their departure. Jack quickly rushed to the dying Queen's side, barely alive as she clutched her bleeding wound.
"Jack, I... please..."
"Your Highness, please, don't speak!"
"Jack... please, take care... take care of my daughters," and she fell limp.
"No, No! Your Highness!"
Suddenly, Weselton emerged with a pair of armed guards with him, bearing rifles.
"Oh... Oh my heavens, the Queen is dead!" The Duke pointed an accusatory finger to Jack, "You... you did this!"
Jack looked up from him, shock on his face, "Now wait a minute, I didn't do it!"
"A likely story!" Weselton and his guards approached him closer.
"Damn it, Weselton! I'm telling you I'm innocent! Where are the princesses? They can tell you, I was trying to protect her!"
Weselton's look of anger changed to one of grim indignation, "The princesses..." he began, "...have been kidnapped."
Jack's face sank, "What?"
Again the Duke pointed his finger at him, "No doubt by some unseen colleagues of yours while you were here killing the Queen!"
Jack grabbed him by the collar, "Weselton, you worm, I'm telling you I- oof!" He was suddenly struck in the head by one of the guards and rendered unconscious.
"Good work men, who knows what that madman would have done? Quick, take him to the prison before he wakes up, I want him alive so I can discern the princesses' location from him."
Jack could only barely see what was going on as his vision turned hazy and continued looking around him, dragged by his arms by two guardsmen, only one thought racing through his mind.
I didn't do it!
So this story was inspired by my sudden realization I could, to an extent, recreate the plot of one of my favorite videogames of all time, Dishonored, using characters from the Big Four (and potentially other CGI cartoon movies).
Now this is just a one-shot I conceived because I wanted to get my creative juices flowing and I'm not seriously considering continuing this, but maybe, if people like it enough, I might (emphasis on "might") consider pushing forward later on.
If you're wondering how I conceived "Katzen-Lasse" for an empire's name, I just took Disney and Dreamworks' Animation's CEOs Jeffrey Katzenberg and John Lasseter and see if it worked, naming stuff is still kinda difficult for me.
Dishonored Bethesda Softworks, Arkane Studios