Hey look, I updated. That only took forever, give or take a few infinities. Sorry for taking so long to update. If anyone is still reading this ish, you are to be congratulated and I would come and hug each and every one of you but it's raining outside and I can't be bothered to change out of my pj's. Thank you for reading and cheers.
The sudden wave of warmth had been a welcome change from the bitter cold. With the snow still thick upon the ground, children frolicked to their heart's content, giggling gleefully as they pelted one another with snowballs and dodged their mothers' grasps as the slush seeped through their shoes and clothes. Men and women on their way to work picked gingerly through half-melted ice and slush, grimacing in distaste whenever a wrong step landed them in an icy puddle.
Along with the warmth came a sense of childish delight. Guards chuckled as they stomped about in heavy boots, tracing out patterns upon the snow. Snowmen clad in palace revelry peppered the grounds and it was all too obvious who their creators were from the frocks and weaponry that they wore or held.
Yet as fickle Fate would have it, the camaraderie felt by everyone else in the kingdom gave their royal majesties a wide berth, skirting around them as though they were slavering beasts that would explode into anger at the slightest touch.
"Their majesties seem a bit tense these days eh?"
The guard stretched. Ever since the queen's powers became common knowledge, and she had sworn to use them for the good and safety of Arendelle, the people of the kingdom wore that sense of safety like a chemise. Feeling rather unneeded, the guards relaxed, confident that none would be foolish enough to challenge their kingdom.
His companion shushed him quickly, smoothing his mustache as his eyes darted to and fro.
"Hush now, d'ye want her majesty to hear ye talkin' about them like that? T'will be a trip to the dungeons for ye, loudmouth."
"Relax mother. Her majesty's been drowning herself in work for weeks now. The princess' off gallivanting somewhere again with that ice-boy. 'Tis the stuff of all the gossip these days. My missus won't shut up about it."
"Ye shouldn't be talkin' o' that. Ye know that they 'ave denied all accusations of romance betwixt them. 'Tis foolish of ye to babble o' that like ye be some empty-'eaded housewife."
The icy voice lashed across them and they snapped to attention, throwing a stiff salute.
Elsa paused as she passed the guards standing post. She pursed her lips .
"Forgive me, but I do believe your duty is to stand guard, not to engage in idle chit-chat. Please do not make this mistake again."
She paused to let her point sink in.
"I will be in the practice courts if anyone asks for me."
The guards stood at attention, the tension in their taut frames stretched so tightly it quivered as the queen swept past. Long after she left, they kept their stance, fearing her return and possible wrath.
"I told ye that ye should not 'ave gossiped," muttered the second guard, his mustache barely moving as he slipped the words past parted lips. His companion scowled.
"Ah, shut yer trap. But 'tis odd for her majesty to be so tense after the princess' return."
The guard frowned at his talkative companion.
"Ye will keep yer thoughts to yerself. 'Tis not out place to speculate about such idle matters."
They fell silent, each absorbed in their own thoughts though both minds ran on parallel tracks. What had so troubled their illustrious ruler?
The first few arrows fell short or flew too far, falling uselessly to the ground. She knew her stance was wrong; her elbow was too high, the bowstring was pulled either too far or not far enough. Again and again she loosed the arrow, unaware of her mounting frustration until the bowstring snapped, frozen brittle with cold.
Disgusted at herself, Elsa stood trembling for a precarious moment, reigning in her control. Her fingers flitted over the delicate carvings in the bow limb, the rapid-fire scrabbling relaxing into a steady rhythm. The tremors ceased and she inhaled deeply before releasing the breath from her lungs in a great, gushing whoosh. Her muscles unwound, the creases between her brows smoothing out as she went to work replacing the bow with a new string and took up her stance once more.
Slim soldiers of wood tipped with feathers, the shafts marched a steady line towards the centre of the target. Lost in her thoughts, Elsa fumbled through the air at her waist and frowned as her fingers brushed nothingness. She'd emptied her entire quiver. Retrieving her arrows, the girl returned to her original position, pulled the bowstring to her ear and continued.
The ache in her overworked muscles had faded to a faint throbbing sensation that she was just barely aware of by the time she came to a halt. Dusky grey streaked the skies and the warm glow of fires being poked into life dotted the various windows of the palace. Elsa stretched, wondering if the kitchens would be empty enough for her to sneak down for her own dinner. Whatever time it was, she was sure that it was definitely past suppertime. Her stomach rumbled like an avalanche and Elsa winced at the noise, desperately relieved that no one was around to bear witness to what was a horribly embarrassing noise.
"You know," said a voice behind her. Elsa nearly jumped out of her skin. "I had to ask at least 10 different guards before someone suggested to me that you might be here in the practice courts."
"I was busy," Elsa said tersely. Her hair was still standing on end at the sudden shock of unexpected company and she hastened to calm her frantic heartbeat. She cringed internally as she saw Anna flinch as her harsh tone and almost apologized. No, she didn't need to apologize. There was nothing that she needed to apologize for.
Circling Elsa until she came to stand by the elder girl's side, Anna smoothed out her navy skirts.
"I missed you at dinner," she chanced hesitantly.
"I apologize for my absence. I was not aware that you had returned from your outing with Kristoff."
If the silence had been awkward before, it was now stretched to breaking point. Elsa took her time picking out an arrow, notching to her bow. Her muscles screamed in protest and she knew that what she was doing was ridiculous. The mature and logical thing to do would be to sit Anna down and clear the air between them. Elsa agreed but right now she needed to collect her thoughts and sift through the tangled mess that was her thoughts. She needed more time. Aiming, Elsa loosed the arrow.
Anna winced at the resounding thuds of her sister's target practice.
Common sense dictated that it would be wiser to pursue the issue of her romantic advances when anger wasn't rolling from the elder girl's skin in waves.
Stubbornness suggested that it would be beneficial to both parties if she persisted and addressed the issue right that second.
Basic survival skills made it very clear that talking to someone who was armed, angry and dangerous was not a good idea.
After a period of silent struggling, stubbornness was kicked to the gutter and stomped over a few times just for good measure. She retreated and stared around the small field. The ground, normally hard-packed dirt the colour of hay was dusted white with snow, reminding her of Gerda's famous gingersnap cookies. Her mouth watered at the thought of moist sweetness, tinged with just the right amount of spice and scattered with a pinch of confectioner's sugar. It was a solitary field, set a little ways from the larger practice field used by soldiers and servants and the placement had been specially requested; Elsa preferred to practice control over her skills without gawking onlookers.
"It makes me feel like a freakshow in the circus," she had replied once when Anna asked. "Or as though I'm some new, exotic species in the menagerie."
Elsa had then pulled a face, startling a giggle from her younger sibling.
"I'd prefer I don't provide my subjects any more reason to fear me than they already do," she had joked, a crooked smile tugging at her lips.
Anna wrapped her arms about Elsa's waist. "For what it's worth, I think you'd make a very good circus freakshow."
Her sister snorted and jabbed Anna in the ribs, hinting that perhaps a certain redhead might do well to cut down on midnight trips to the snack cupboard or she'd be in the circus for roundest princess in the world. The redhead retorted that the queen shouldn't be making judgments about other people's weight when a slight breeze could blow her away and that from now on her eating would be monitored until she was of healthy size.
"Why bother," quipped Elsa. "Surely you have enough weight to support both of us."
Those had been the times. If someone had told Anna a year ago that she would be facing the most complicated decision of her life, she would have laughed. What more could happen? She had faced down the worst fears of her life. Anything that Fate had to throw at her she could handle blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back.
The tiny voice in her head suggested that perhaps she wouldn't completely mind someone other than Fate having a go at her while she was in that condition. Anna hushed it. Now was neither the time nor place to let her desires run wild and free as she had a suspicion they might be transfixed on the business end of an arrow if they did. She glanced around the field. A crate contained an assortment of battered practice weapons ranging from lances to swords. It, like many of Anna's memories, belonged to a happier and comparatively carefree time when the sisters weren't avoiding one another like the plague in a woefully useless attempt to sort out the implications of their actions. She approached it, pulling free the practice sword amidst a clatter of wood. Its weight pressed comfortably against her palms, the wood cold and grainy.
"That was yours."
Elsa had lowered her bow. She jerked her head at the sword in Anna's hands.
"That belonged to you. I believe it is the one you used in your lessons with the weapons master."
So it was. Its weight was more familiar now with this piece of knowledge. She shifted, fighting against imaginary enemies, a brave warrior in puffy gloves and furry cloak. Her sword swept the air with a flourish as she brought it to a halt. Slow clapping greeted her performance and Anna bowed, dipping her body exaggeratedly low.
"Glad to see that you have not lost your touch. You always were the more talented of us with weaponry."
Anna flushed at the unexpected compliment.
"It's nothing," she mumbled. "It's not as though we've had any reason to use these things for ages now. Well, not ages, maybe just a couple of years. Besides, I mean, everyone's too scared to-" She trailed off at the look on Elsa's face. "Anyways, I'm the princess so it's not like I'm going to fight anyways. I just like knowing how to use them. It's fun. And it's not like they'll run out of ammunition halfway through a fight. Unless my arm gets cut off or-I'm rambling again aren't I? I'm just going to be quiet."
Elsa nodded gravely. "I suppose you are correct in that assumption. But I'm quite sure you'd be a force to be reckoned with if you did take part in any fight."
The two girls stood smiling awkwardly at each other. Anna coughed, breaking the odd but not entirely uncomfortable atmosphere. At least she no felt as though her life might be in danger. Now was as good a time as any to address the issue at hand.
"Elsa, I was just wondering…um…"
She hesitated, her courage wavering briefly.
"So what's the situation between us right now? Are we in love or were we just drunk or something like that."
It occurred to her that things that sounded good in one's mind didn't necessarily always come out the same way verbally.
Elsa unstrung her bow, carefully ravelling the string and placing it into a small pouch. Her gaze was focused on her work, her voice monotone and almost careless when she replied.
"It was a momentary lapse of judgement due to the negative effects of alcohol consumption. That is to say, it was nothing and we were inebriated."
The chill in the wind had returned, piercing Anna to the bone with biting cold though she barely noticed as Elsa met her eyes once more. Her gaze was stern and icy as she issued her final words on the matter with the haughty authority of a magistrate sentencing a criminal to his death.
"There is nothing between us Anna. We are sisters and that is all we will ever be. Any and all actions that have transpired between us were the results of too much alcohol. They will not happen again. I do not wish to hear of this matter, am I understood?"
Elsa fought to keep a stiff upper lip. She forbade her from thinking back to the way Anna's lips had felt upon her own, from remembering that first night of Anna's intoxicated seduction and the twisted emotions that roiled and snarled inside her breast when she was informed that Anna had left on a week-long trip with Kristoff as though to avoid seeing her. The expression on her sister's face was almost too much to bear but Elsa stood her ground. She knew what was best for Anna and what was best for the both of them. Anything she had felt or did feel had a scientific and logical explanation that did not involve love, romance or sexual desire towards her younger sibling and that would be the end of the matter. She stared Anna down until the other girl lowered her gaze and nodded grudging consent.
"Good," said Elsa. "I'm glad that we had this talk."
Turning on her heel, she strode off towards the castle. She told herself that this wasn't running away, that she was just in dire need of sustenance from missing several meals and that once the day's events had blown over she would talk to Anna again and they would be just like they were before.
Now if she could just convince herself that these were true, everything would be just perfect.
Thank you for reading. Sorry for taking forever.