She had saved the princess from the wolves but now she had their attention. They were closing in on her, fast. She managed to scatter the pack and scare them away with a blast of ice in the middle of the group but the big one, the alpha, wasn't giving up and had already scratched her once when he got close enough. She knocked him away using a strong gust of wind but he didn't stay down. She tried to run for her safe haven but she was stumbling too much, one hand grasping the injury at her side while the other waved fruitlessly, trying to use every trick she could to get the wolf off her trail. She didn't want to have to hurt it, or worse, kill it, but it was looking like a battle to the death. She was shoved to the ground forcefully when it leaped and knocked her down. Without a second thought, fear of her throat being torn out, she flung out her hand. A wall of sharp spikes leapt from the ground just as the wolf pounced. It yelped and fell silent, the weight of that silence pressing down on her. She held back her ragged breath along with tears and forced herself up.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, the words lost on the wind that picked up once more with her conflicted emotions. She got back to her palace and shut out the world with the two heavy front doors. She leaned against them and took a few deep breaths. Conceal, don't feel. She had to get herself to calm down. She was more than aware that she was the cause of the eternal winter, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't get it to stop. The power within her just kept growing, her fear of what it was capable of kept her from getting a proper grip on it. Her slender fingers gripped at her platinum locks as she slid to the floor.
"Elsa?" a soft voice questioned. She opened her eyes and looked up to see her only companion Olaf waddle up to her, concern in his big eyes. He was a product of her happiest memories bound together while she was testing out what she could do. Her practices eventually created Olaf and Marshmallow who stomped around the perimeter of her ice castle now. He must have just missed the girl or she wouldn't have wandered in here. Her presence surprised her so she ran. It was a good thing they ended up in the same area or-no, she didn't want to think about the outcome of that. She caused enough unrest all on her own and she hated when others had to go through more on top of that so she tried to help anytime she could. The princess had definitely needed help.
"Are you ok?" Olaf continued. She nodded and looked away from him to touch the scratch marring her pale skin. With a flutter of her fingers her ruined skin was patched over by ice, sealing it in the process. It would at least keep it from bleeding until it started to heal.
"I'm fine. I just…I ran into some trouble," she murmured. Olaf sat down next to her and glanced at her side which she was still gripping. Her teeth where clenched together.
"Let's take a nap or something. I think you need a nap. What do you think?" he babbled in that innocent Olaf way. She offered him a small smile and nodded.
"Yeah, I think I do," she agreed, pushing herself to stand with Olaf's help. He followed her up to her room where she fell into a powdery soft pile of snow. Her eyes fell shut and soon she was lost to much needed sleep.
After returning to her room, thinking she got away with her rebellious act of staying out late, Anna was caught in the end by Kristoff. He must have had an idea what she was up to because he waited right there in plain view. He wasn't at all happy and she felt so guilty seeing his disappointed expression. She told him they would talk at dinner but Kristoff reminded her again how late she was. Dinner was long gone. Anna would have beat herself up over missing dinner but she was too preoccupied. So, after she got dressed in her night gown he returned to her room and they sat on her bed.
"Anna, what did I tell you about-" he began but his little sister just groaned tiredly.
"I know, ok, but I was just…curious, I guess," she cut in before he could go off on a rant.
"Ok, well, please don't do it again, ok? I-I don't…" he tried to say but he faltered. Anna hugged him, hoping he would come around and share how he felt with her.
"I know, we already lost too much," she responded. The king cleared his throat and then nodded to his kid sister.
"So, mind telling me why your cloak is shredded? While you're at it, explain to me why you thought it was a good idea to stay out late?" he began. Anna glanced at him but then averted her gaze when she answered.
"I kinda ran into wolves," she admitted. His eyebrows rose and then sunk down sharply over his nose, his worry clear.
"Anna," he groaned in a scolding manner like she was a dog that didn't understand what was being taught to it.
"Next time, please, be back home on time. That is exactly why I don't want you out late," he warned her. She nodded and he stood, running a hand over his face in exasperation. He walked to the door but stopped and looked back at her.
"You know I tell you this because I love you, right? We're all we have left," he said, his eyes searching out his sister's downcast gaze.
"I know. I'm sorry," she responded. He gave her a small smile and then left, most likely to pick back up on his constant paperwork. If Kristoff worried about how much time she spent outside then she worried about how much time he spent buried in his duties as king. He didn't take much breaks and she tried to get him to take them more often but he wouldn't. Anna sighed and curled up in her bed, gripping the blankets around her. A shiver ran through her suddenly and it reminded her of her run in with the wolves that were thwarted by what seemed to be winter itself. Had she in fact been saved by the legendary Ice Demon? Was it not truly evil but misunderstood? That had to be the only explanation because, on its own, snow couldn't do that. It wasn't a coincidence.
"I'm one step closer," she whispered with an excited smile. She closed her eyes and let sleep carry her off, the smile still present. Knocking woke her up early in the morning. She jumped at the abrupt sound and sat up bleary eyed. She yawned and then prepared to lay back down but the knocking persisted.
"Princess? Are you up? You have been summoned-" the voice of Kai said through the door.
"Oh yeah, I'm up! I'll be right there. Tell him…tell him ten more minutes," she cut in, leaning on her propped up knees.
"Ok, I will let him know," Kai replied. Meanwhile, Anna was already falling asleep again. Her head slipped from its perch, jerking her awake.
"I'm up! I'm up! Ugh, I better go see what Kristoff wants," she mumbled, forcing herself to get out of bed. By the time she was ready it was far past ten minutes. She entered their father's old study where Kristoff spent much time as a young boy and even more time as an adult. He was sitting in the elegant chair, his brows held in a way that said he was in deep thought. Anna cleared her throat and he looked up quickly.
"Oh, you made it. I thought you just went back to sleep," he teased. She glared at him but shrugged. She would have and said so.
"I almost did. So, uh, what did you want?" she wondered.
"I thought I should let you know that a Prince Hans of the Southern Isles will be coming to visit Arendelle. His kingdom would be a great trade partner and maybe he could-" Kristoff began, but Anna knew where he was headed.
"You mean he could be a means to a trade partner and merger between the kingdoms," she stated, her voice a mix of forced elation and nervousness.
"You aren't getting gassy are you?" he asked with a knowing smile. She stomped over to smack his arm.
"Hey!" she exclaimed indignantly.
"Well you do!" he shot back.
"I know," she grumbled.
"Well, he should be here later today by dinner so don't be late this time ok?" he told her. She nodded, a disappointed feeling rolling in her gut. She never really saw herself married and settled because she longed for adventure. This wasn't the first time a prince showed up in hopes of getting her hand in marriage but Anna would make sure he wouldn't be treated any differently.
"Right, because how can I miss out on this opportunity when you haven't even found someone yet? You know, you're the oldest, you should be married first," she remarked, trying to keep the disinterested tone out of her voice and direct the spot light on him. Kristoff looked away and sighed.
"Yeah, but I just haven't met the right one yet," he said with a shrug.
"All those balls for nothing?" Anna joked.
"I'll be fine. I have to finish going over this form so do you think you could go into town and mingle a little, see how everyone is doing? I know you love to talk so it should be really easy for you. Plus, they love you," he requested. She saluted and marched to the door.
"Of course your majesty, I shall travel into town and do as you ask," she said in an overly formal tone. He smiled at her antics and watched her go before turning back to the papers on his desk. Anna jogged through the halls to her room so she could get her cloak. Even during the day it was always chilly. The sun rarely made an appearance. When she was ready she ran back through the halls and slid down the banister of the staircase to hop off at the bottom and continue to the front door. She headed straight into town, instantly finding townsfolk to talk with. They all greeted her happily and answered any questions she had while she answered theirs. It was a fun task that also included playing with the children as she went. A smile was stuck to her face the whole time until she overheard two men out by the tavern who were untying their horses and getting ready to head out. She slowed to a stop by a crowd of people and listened in. They looked just like the type to go hunting and spend a lot of time in the woods.
"I heard the creature can create huge snowmen monstrosities and blizzards with winds so fatal they carry spears of ice. No man alive would be stupid enough to hunt down the creature unless they wanted to be another foolish dead man," one of them said to the other.
"It's just legends. A creature that can control ice and snow? No way," the other dismissed.
"And what do you suppose all this snow came from, hm?" the first demanded. The other man thought about that before frowning.
"What say we get rid of it," he suggested.
"I just said-" the first began but the other silenced him.
"Look, we wear armor and ride up there ready to torch the place. The creature might even have an aversion to fire. I think it's worth a shot. If not, the good 'ol sword or crossbow method should work," he continued.
"I don't know…" the first said warily.
"Think of it, we'd be heroes! The king may even reward us handsomely for removing such a threat!" the other enticed. The first one's expression hardened and greed lined his smirk.
"Let's go soon while there's still light out," the first finally agreed. They jumped on their horses and rode off. Anna's thoughts raced. They were going to attempt to kill the creature. A feeling of concern colored her initial thoughts that it was a dangerous endeavor. What was odd was that her concern wasn't for the men who knew the risks and went anyway but for the creature that may just be afraid and couldn't do anything else besides use it unholy curse to defend itself.
"What side are you on Anna?" she wondered to herself. She wasn't one to leave anyone out though so it made perfect sense that she may be slightly worried for the Ice Demon. After all, it did save her life. She wasn't attacked by it. Someone came up to her at that moment and she dropped all thought process to answer their question. She stayed out until the weather grew ominous and dark once more. Snow flurried and sent everyone inside. Anna was on her way back to the castle when the two men from earlier came galloping into town, fear making their eyes wide along with their horses that were far from calm. They almost fell off their horses trying to dismount them. Anna could see their armor scraped and dented, their faces cut, and one even had a limp.
"Guards! Guards! The creature, it's real!" they shouted in alarm. The two soldiers by the bridge ran over to assist them. A third came up to place a hand on Anna's shoulder.
"You should be inside princess. The storm is getting worse," he advised.
"But the men…" she began.
"We'll handle it. Head inside," he urged. She nodded and left them to calm down the frightened men. Anna stepped into the warmth of the castle and yanked off her cloak which was covered in frost so thick the fibers were stiff. She decided to take a warm bath and then get dressed for dinner. She spent her remaining time reading until it was time. She rushed into the dining area to see her brother offer her a smile for being on time. She returned it and then took her seat to his right.
"And here she is, my lovely sister, Princess Anna," Kristoff introduced. She waved shyly and brushed back a lock of hair, unwilling to meet the eyes of the visiting prince.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you princess," a deep and smooth voice addressed her. She caught her brother's eyes who gestured for her to answer. She looked to the prince who stood from his seat respectfully. Anna had to admit how gorgeous he was. Her eyes widened and she naturally began to stutter.
"Oh, um, I-you-I mean, it's nice to, um, meet you too," she replied. He smiled at her in return.
"Hans of the Southern Isles. I can't wait to see what Arendelle has to offer," he said before taking a seat. Anna looked to Kristoff who was smiling back at her. If she could hit him right now she would. Hans was the picture perfect prince she always wanted when she was a little girl, but now, she wished someone so perfect hadn't showed up. How could she say no to that face? She groaned and turned her attention to the food that was being served. She kept her thoughts clear and focused on eating, letting her brother and Hans speak most of the time. She couldn't have wanted to get to her room any faster than she did now.