Frozen: After the Thaw

Karl Ericson stood in the anteroom of the Queen's reception hall in Arundel castle. To suggest that he was extremely nervous would be a gross understatement. He had been in such a state for two days now, ever since the arrival of the summons to appear before the Queen at the earliest possible moment. He couldn't imagine what misdeed he could have committed that would have attracted Queen Elsa's attention. He was little more than a peasant farmer and he couldn't imagine how anyone in the castle could have even known he was alive.

However, every functionary that he had been directed to had attested to the authenticity of the summoning document, complete with official royal seal and the Queen's signature. So here he stood, dressed in his best attire, brought out only for the solstice festival and when his two brothers had wed. In a fleeting moment, he wondered if he would ever see the farm again. From the look on his father's face as he had ridden away, he felt he had reason to be concerned.

He visibly started when the door to the reception hall swung in slightly. An armed guard stood in the opening and waved Karl in. As he walked by the guard he winced slightly as the door closed with a heavy thud. From the sound of the extra footsteps it was apparent that the guard followed along behind, if by several paces. As he approached what he assumed was a throne, he became even more nervous. The description he had been given the previous evening by his second cousin, who operated a small shop in the town, had not done justice to the woman seated on the large, ornately carved chair.

She was stunning. Her platinum blonde hair was pulled into a thick braid that fell over her left shoulder. She wore a blue gown that showed both shoulder and a disturbing amount of one leg. Her eyes were piercing blue and her smile was small and if Karl was any judge, both amused and inquisitive. He knew he wasn't supposed to approach right up to the throne but he hadn't been instructed as to where to stop, so he did so when he came abreast of a middle aged man of some girth, but not much height. He was dressed in deceptively simple attire, but the quality of the cloth and tailoring belied the simplicity.

Karl towered over the older man. It was obvious that he shared much of the features often associated with his likely Viking ancestors. In addition to his height, he was wide at the shoulder and broad in the chest if narrow at the hips. He was clean shaven and his reddish blonde hair was cut just below the ear. Like the queen he looked at the world through blue eyes, if not so pale.

Yet for all his obvious physical strength, he felt decidedly insecure. Yet the Queen was exhibiting no apparent threatening behavior and the man facing him, if to the side, was showing no overt hostility. Regardless of what lay in store, Karl was determined to put his best foot forward, so he bowed deeply, if a bit stiffly and said,

"Karl Ericson, Your Majesty, appearing as commanded."

Queen Elsa had to sit back a bit so she could look into the face of the rather commanding figure that stood before her. His features were pleasant to look upon, and his physical presence was impressive. He was dressed in neat if somewhat roughly cut and tailored cloth and it was obvious he was quite nervous.

"At my command? I was unaware that I had had anyone commanded into my presence today. Anders?"

The last was directed at the man, her privy secretary, who was standing between herself and the visitor.

"It's a bit perplexing, Your Majesty. I am assured that the document is authentic, yet I cannot recall having it written or presenting it to you for your seal and signature, Your Majesty."

"Perplexing to say the least," Elsa observed, sitting back fully upon the throne. "Let me ask you, good sir. Have you created this authentic appearing document for the purpose of appearing before me with the intent of doing me harm?"

Karl was shocked at the suggestion and his face must have registered such, for the Queen seemed to smile somewhat wider.

"Most certainly not, Your Majesty."

"I hadn't really thought so, Goodman, but I sought to have it stated for the record. So, let us look further. That the summons is a hoax is obvious. But to what purpose? Is the joke on you or on me?"

At the utterance of the word joke, Karl seemed to freeze. It did not go unnoticed.

"Yes?" Elsa prompted.

"I beg your forgiveness, Your Majesty. A thought occurred and if it should prove true I would ask that you show mercy."

Elsa was taken aback a bit by Karl's agitation. It was clear he was quite upset.

"Please be at ease, my good sir. What do you suspect?" she asked.

"Your Majesty, I am the youngest of five sons. The playing of jokes on each other is a favorite pastime, but as the youngest I am usually the target. As we grew older the jokes became more elaborate. I'm afraid the joke is on me. With your leave, I will remove myself and return to the farm and extract an admission of guilt."

"One against four does not seem like good odds to gaining a confession," Elsa observed.

Karl let a small smile to form, one that Elsa found most agreeable.

"Only one of my brother's is larger than I am, Your Majesty, and I know his weaknesses."

Elsa shook her head and said,

"I'm afraid I can't agree with your conclusion, good sir. May I call you Karl?"

Karl blinked and then said,

"Most certainly, Your Majesty."

"Thank you. Now, as I said, while your brothers may be inclined to such an elaborate jest, I have my doubts as to their ability to make it happen. Anders? You said you have examined the document. Do you have it?"

Before Anders could respond Eric pulled the folded parchment from a pocket.

"Ah, may I see it, please."

Eric made to hand the document to the secretary, who hesitated but took it and transferred it to the outstretched hand of the Queen. She smiled slightly, but also looked a bit disappointed. She unfolded the summons and examined it. With a nod she refolded it and held it out directly to Karl. When he hesitated she raised an eyebrow and he moved forward just enough so that his long arm could reach it, if barely. The Queen smiled again.

"Anders, if I didn't know better, I would say that that was written by one of yours and sealed and signed by me. How is this possible?"

"I am at a loss, Your Majesty."

Elsa turned her attention back to Karl as if to study him. He watched as her eyes narrowed and lips pursed. It was a look that caused his breath to catch. Then her eyes darted to a side door of the hall and then back to Anders. Then she looked back at the man before her.

"Karl, would you happen to know an iceman by the name of Kristoff?"

"Yes, Your Majesty, I know him fairly well. He has been providing ice to our farm for the past several years, since old Gustav had to retire."

Elsa nodded once again and said,

"Then it is I who must ask your mercy, or at least your indulgence for I believe you have been the victim of a conspiracy. One that has originated from within the castle."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Your Majesty," Karl replied.

Elsa looked around the hall and saw among the furnishings two comfortable looking chairs near one wall, beneath a portrait of some past ancestor.

"Anders, I would like to have a quiet conversation with Karl. Would you please wait here?"

"As Your Majesty commands," Anders replied, a bit stiffly, for it was apparent he wasn't happy with the idea.

Elsa rose and took a step towards Karl and she offered her hand. While not intimately familiar with courtly manners he knew enough to raise his arm so that she could rest her hand on his forearm. A shiver ran down Karl's back and it had nothing to do with temperature. She led him to the two chairs and with his arm for support she seated herself. Karl remained standing until she gestured toward the seat opposite her. Karl sat, but remained somewhat stiffly erect.

"Karl, are you aware at all of how I came to the throne?"

"Somewhat, Your Majesty. You are the eldest of two sisters, your parents were lost at sea several years ago. When you came of age you were crowned but then something happened that caused the winter to return. A few days later summer came back and things are more or less back to normal."

Elsa smiled and laughed, a sight and sound Karl was coming to truly enjoy.

"That's a concise summation," then she regarded the man across from her said, "Karl, are you aware of what I am capable of?"

"I assume you're referring to the snow and ice?"

She nodded.

"My cousin tried to explain it to me last night. I have to admit that I'm having some trouble believing it."

Elsa took a deep breath and held out her right hand and just above her palm, a small swirl of snow appeared. Then it was gone. Karl sat there with his eyes wide. The he blinked a time or two and said,

"Then it is true. What a miraculous thing."

"I spent most of my life thinking otherwise. I've managed to inflict serious injury on my sister twice, nearly buried my kingdom in perpetual winter and had it usurped by an unscrupulous charmer. But of most specific interest to our discussion is the fact that I spent most of my life in isolation, out of fear that I would do something to hurt others. But I managed to do that anyway. My sister was also trapped after a fashion. While she still had access to most of the castle, she, we, had very little contact with the outside world. Most fortunately, my sister has come to have someone in her life. Your friend, Kristoff. Being my sister, Anna would want the same thing for me."

Elsa paused to see if Karl would draw the conclusion she had thought so obvious a few moments before. When she saw his eyes go wide and sink back into the chair, she thought he realized what was likely going on. However, when his expression began to show horrified panic, she wasn't sure if she should feel insulted or not.

"Y-y-your Majesty, you must know, I had nothing to do with this. If I had known I would never have come here," Karl said, his voice having gone up an octave or two and his eyes darted as if looking for an escape route.

"Please rest easy, Karl. I am not suggesting you have. And to be perfectly honest I'm not sure if I shouldn't be put out by the vehemence of your reaction," she said, with a bit of a pout.

"Your Majesty, I mean you no disrespect. But you must understand I am a simple son of a farmer. I have no business being here, speaking to you, particularly about such matters."

"Alright, then let us speak of other matters," Elsa countered.

"Your Majesty?"

"As I mentioned, I've spent most of my life in seclusion. There is much about my kingdom of which I am barely aware. Tell me something of your part of it."

Karl watched as the Queen settled herself back into the cushioned chair back, her expression expectant. So he sat a bit straighter and with a hand on each knee, began.

"Well, it is slightly more than half a day's ride to the south from here to the farm. As you are most likely aware, the coastal plain expands the further south you go. Our farm is fifteen miles from the coast and it's another twenty or more until you reach the foothills. My father is the fifth generation to hold the land. Supposedly, somewhere in the house is a land grant document signed by the king of that time himself."

"Now, that's an interesting fact. A connection between your family and mine."

"Um, yes, but I'd imagine that many land holders have such documents," Karl said.

"Not nearly so many as you'd suppose. Most farmers hold their land by lease agreement with the local lord. If you do indeed have a land grant directly from the crown, it means the land is yours and only the crown can take control of it from you," Elsa said with a small smile.

"I see, well, as I was saying, we mostly grow grain and livestock, with a few acres given over to growing vegetables for our own usage."

"And what is your task on the farm, Karl?"

"I manage the livestock, Your Majesty."

Elsa pursed her lips again, slightly derailing Kurt's train of thought.

"It would seem to me that that is a very responsible position for the youngest son."

"I suppose so, but my father is a firm believer in letting talent and ability dictate what we do. I showed the ability to deal with animals early. My oldest brother isn't so sure, but he can't make any changes until after he holds the farm."

"Are you saying that he might have you do something different?" Elsa asked, leaning forward slightly.

"It's possible. He could keep me doing the same thing, do something else, or leave the farm entirely."

"Have you been successful?"

"Very much so, Your Majesty. The herd and flock grow, the individual animals are healthy and much sought after for market," Karl replied matter-of-factly.

"The why on earth would he think to change that?"

"Your Majesty, kingdom law is that the oldest inherits all. Father may leave some personal items to who he wishes but the farm and everything on it goes to my brother. And he has his own views on how to run things. Father tries to counsel him but…" Karl finished with a shrug.

"I see, well, that is something new for me to know. Please continue."

And Karl did. He talked about the work done, the different events during the year. He talked about the fact that the oldest and third brothers were married and the second was betrothed.

"Arranged marriages?" she asked.

"After a fashion, Your Majesty. The children of the farms don't stray very far but several times a year there are sufficient gatherings for them to get to know each other and to allow the elders to see how we get along. If an attachment is made, it is encouraged. If someone is adrift, I guess you could say, arrangements are made."

"And you? Has any arrangement been made for you and that's why you reacted as you have?" she asked with a mischievous grin.

"No, Your Majesty, youngest son, remember? Not much of a priority, especially if it be known that I could be sent off. After all, the farm will need to support three families."

"A thought occurs to me, Karl. We have spoken for a time now and it strikes me that you are very well spoken for a farmer."

"You mean a peasant, Your Majesty?" Karl asked, with a cocked eyebrow.

"I meant a farmer, Karl. I wasn't aware that education was available where families are so widely spread."

"An education doesn't always require a building with a bell, or a master with a stick. I was fortunate that my father believed in learning of all types. He said you could never be sure where the next good idea might come from. His library contains over fifty volumes. I've read every one, so have my brothers. The farm is also well known as a welcome stopover for travelers who journey between the city here and those to the south. Many are learned in one way or another."

Elsa nodded as she rearranged certain thoughts and ideas. She prodded him with a few more questions and then gave him another shock.

"You said it's more than half a day's ride back to your farm, yes?"

"I did, Your Majesty."

"So it is well beyond the time that would be prudent for you to start your journey home."

"Yes, Your Majesty, but I had not intended on leaving today. Not knowing the nature of your summons, I assumed the worse. Well, not the worse, but that it would take all day. I will be staying with my cousin again tonight."

"I see. Well, that being the case, would you accept my invitation to dine with me tonight?" Elsa asked, the calm self assurance she had been showing all day turning somewhat timid.

Karl was surprised but on a day when surprise had become the norm he considered the offer. He assumed that the Queen would be eating with a large number of those who inhabited the castle. He figured he could pretty much lose himself in the crowd and he wouldn't have to spend the meager coins he had on a simple and probably not too filling dinner.

"I would feel very privileged, Your Majesty."

For the first time since he had entered the hall, Karl saw her entire face smile. It was literally breathtaking. She then looked toward Anders who had been dutifully observing his Queen and her visitor talking for far longer then he thought was appropriate. However, all things about Elsa were different than anything he had known or heard of. When he saw her beckon to him he hurried over, preparing to escort the towering commoner from the hall.

"Anders, I have invited Goodman Karl to join me for dinner. I believe we had no formal affairs slated for this evening?"

"That is true, Your Majesty. You were to dine alone in your private salon."

"I have done far too much alone, Anders. I would prefer not to do so this evening. Please have a second place set at table."

Anders wasn't the only one surprised. Karl was staggered. A private dinner with the Queen? What was going on here? Anders was smart enough to know that the dinner wouldn't really be private. There would be servers, one guard inside and several outside. He still didn't fully trust this Viking throwback, but he would hold his tongue. What he did remember was protocol and procedure. He turned toward the hall in general and announced,

"Today's audience has ended."

Karl rose quickly and offered his arm once more to the Queen who accepted with a roll of her eyes in Anders direction. Karl couldn't help but smile. Something about her attitude was infectious. He proceeded at what he thought was a stately pace but what it did do was allow the significantly shorter Elsa to walk with some dignity as opposed to having to skip along to keep up with his long legs. Karl wasn't sure but he thought this time her hand was holding on a bit more tightly than during the trip to the chairs earlier.

As they moved from the audience hall through a pair of corridors and then into the private dining room, Karl was impressed, not by the gaudy ornateness he had expected but by the stonework and finely crafted wood he did find. It had more the warm feel of a large home than a drafty, cold castle. He could imagine two small girls playing among the rooms and furnishings, but that had all come to an end, in a way he didn't fully understand.

The dining room may have been private, but it wasn't small. The table could easily seat a dozen people. There was a niche in the wall behind the Queen's chair for a guard which was now occupied. Someone had just finished putting out a second place setting to the left of the Queen's place at the head of the table. Without giving it a thought, Karl went to the Queen's chair and pulled it back for her. Elsa looked at him with slight tilt to the head and smile.

"Thank you, gallant gentleman."

"Hardly a gentleman, Your Majesty. More of a habit. As the youngest, it was my job to pull out my mother's chair at the table. I did it at every meal, every day, from the time I was four years old until she got too sick to sit with us," he said, his eyes clouding for a moment.

Elsa's eyes were full of empathy at the thought of the loss of a parent. When she was seated she indicated he should take his place. Karl folded himself into the chair. Elsa looked at him and said,

"You'll be given the choice of wine or ale."

"I have no experience with wine, but ale is a staple at the farm, thank you."

Anders had retired once he was sure the guards were in place and the servers were about their business. Karl looked at Elsa and said,

"He doesn't like me."

"Anders served my father and mother faithfully for many years. Their loss hit him hard. My particular situation has him somewhat at a loss. A Queen without a consort, who possesses magical powers. Plus a sister who is currently heir to the throne, a true free spirit who has expressed her love for a commoner? I'm afraid it has him, how should I say, off balance. Your presence hasn't helped."

"It hasn't helped my balance much either," Karl offered in return.

"But you have handled it well. You seem much more at ease."

"I think that has a lot more to do with you, Your Majesty. You've been very gracious and understanding given the circumstances."

Elsa smiled once more. Two servers entered and placed a glass of wine at her place and a pewter tankard of ale at his. Dinner progressed at an easy pace. As one course was finished and removed, a few minutes were allowed to pass until the next arrived.

The main course was cuts of beef smothered in a brown sauce. Karl began to examine the cut of beef on his plate before slicing it and beginning to eat. Elsa couldn't help but observe.

"So, my good, sir. What think you of the beef? Does it pass inspection?" she asked with a touch of whimsy.

"It is good, Your Majesty."

"But not great?"

"It could use a bit more fat. And the herdsman needs to graze them on more fresh grass and less dry hay and grain."

"Well, if you can think of a source of a finer cut and quality, please leave us the name," she said, her eyes twinkling like clear, new ice.

Kurt took a sip of his ale and pursed his lips a bit.

"A problem?"

"Not really, Your Majesty. I suppose I've always been a bit more partial to ale that's been chilled on a cold winter's eve."

Elsa reached over and laid two fingers on the side of his tankard and in a moment a bit of frost formed on the lip. Kurt regarded her quizzically and she gestured. He lifted the now cold tankard and took a sip.

"That's awfully handy."

She smiled radiantly. The rest of the meal passed pleasantly. When coffee was served Karl looked at the Queen and chose to ask a question that had nagged at him since she had brought up the subject of arranged marriages.

"Your Majesty, I have to admit to a certain amount of confusion here, perhaps caused by my own ignorance. Earlier you asked me about how marriages came about among those of us on the farms. Might I ask how it works for someone like you? I mean, why was all this subterfuge necessary?"

Elsa sat back, her coffee cup held in both hands. She regarded the impressive man sitting to her side. It had been clearly demonstrated that he was intelligent, educated more than most, including those living in the town, and perceptive. With a small shrug she began.

"Under normal circumstances it would resemble what you described to me. Although the children involved wouldn't be from neighboring farms, but neighboring estates, and even nations. And the number of visits would be much less frequent. Of course, if it was considered necessary for reasons of state, a purely arranged marriage would be a possibility. Things are a bit of a problem for me right now. A queen without a husband is not taken too seriously, although my capabilities make up for that in some ways. Had I grown up normally, matters would have been arranged quite a while ago. So I suppose that's why my sister felt she should do what we believe she has."

"But it still makes no sense. A Queen or princess should be wed to a prince or duke or something, shouldn't she?"

"I don't know about 'should' but it is the usual way of things. However, recent events have put both princes and dukes in a bad light, so I guess Anna thought Kristoff was a good model."

"He is a good man. Practically raised himself, runs his own ice business, a fine man to have around. Of course, there is that business about him being raised by trolls, but I have to think he tells that story to see how gullible his customers are."

Elsa shook her head and held up her hand and a swirl of snow ran around the table and then disappeared.

"Let me tell you a story."

So as his coffee cooled he learned how she and Anna played in the castle with the snow and ice she created. How Anna had been hurt and the Troll wizard had removed all traces of the injury and her memories of the magic. Of the terrible time of isolation, the revelation of her powers at her coronation party and the time of ice and snow in summer. And of course, of a sister letting herself turn to ice to save the other, yet redeeming them both with that selfless act of true love.

"So, my good sir, my sister who loves me, who has found her true love, now seeks to help her sister find similar happiness after years of loneliness."

She watched as Karl's eyes became troubled and he looked down at his cup. She gave a sad little smile and said,

"It is nearly time for us to bring this surprising day to an end, but before you leave I would ask you to let me show you one last thing."

"As you command, Your Majesty."

"As I wish, please."

Karl stood and once more pulled out he Queen's chair, the steely eyes of the guard watching every move. Once more with her hand upon his arm they walked from the small room, a guard from those outside walking along behind. The came to a stairway and Karl opened the door. The stairs wound up through a tower and ended at another door that led out onto a small parapet.

"A wonderful view, don't you agree?" Elsa asked.

Perhaps it was his height, or maybe growing up on a farm and able to see to the horizon in every direction had conditioned him so but he looked up first. It was a clear summer night, full of familiar stars. He looked down at the Queen and said,

"A bit hazy here in the city. I imagine in winter with all the fires for heat it is much more so. But still a familiar sky."

Then he looked at the city itself, with the many lights still lit in the evening gloom. The stars were reflected in the water of the fjord that led out from the harbor. What Elsa did next added one more surprise to a day full. She took hold of Karl's right hand in both of hers and she looked up at him.

"I know that you were brought here under false pretenses, although I'm sure it was with the best of intentions. I know that it shocked and dismayed you but you rallied magnificently. I would ask first, that you not think ill of us, of my sister. I will see to it that you receive a full apology and are compensated for any expenses."

"No, no, Your Majesty, I couldn't accept that. It has mostly been a matter of time and only a few small coins. That is small enough when compared to what I have been gifted with today. To have met you and come to know you as few of my station could ever hope to. Please, I don't feel ill used in this at all."

"And now, kind sir, it is you that is being gracious, most gracious. Then to my next point," she said, taking in a deep breath and letting it out. "I realize that you have been pushed into situation not of your making or, I suspect, to your liking. I ask only, as your Queen, but perhaps more importantly, as a woman, that you not completely reject the notion out of hand," and as she said this she squeezed his hand tighter so that he wouldn't pull it away if he so chose. "My hands in this matter are not nearly as free as yours might be if you were home on the farm. I already have had suggestions made and subtle pressures applied. And yet here, as if dropped from a clear blue sky, is you."

"Please, Your Majesty, how could you suggest I would be worthy of such a thing. It is not simply a matter of desire. If it were you would be a choice without compare, but there is so much more to it and I am but a simple farmer."

"No, Karl, you are no such thing. You are kind and thoughtful, honest and honorable. You are intelligent, educated and skilled in tasks that would find much use. And I see in you the reminder of days past, that would be an inspiration to all those around you. Please, I simply ask that you consider it. If need be I could command it, but I would never do that. I would only request that you return, at the next full moon. The old has just passed and I would have you see the full moon reflected in the harbor with me from this spot. Will you do that? For me?"

Karl, his hand still held fast in hers, looked back out to the harbor, where, according to his cousin, fantastical events had unfolded not all that long ago. But none more so than what was being suggested now. He turned and looked down at the Queen.

"I will return at the next full moon, as my Queen wishes."

Her smile lit up the night, as far as Karl was concerned and once more he held the door for her, this time to go down the stairs. Once back in the corridor, she took his arm, this time in the more intimate gesture of her arm wrapping around the forearm. She walked him to the front doors, the guard trailing behind. One heavy leave was swung open and somewhat reluctantly she removed her arm from his and said,

"On the day of the next full moon, you will be expected. You'll not forget me or your promise?"

"Not until the coppers are laid on my eyes," he said, his deep voice almost whimsical.

Then he bowed and slipped out through the door into a night far brighter than he could have ever imagined. The following morning he was on the road with the sunrise, his thoughts divided as he rode. One line of thinking involved what had occurred the day before and what he had been offered. It seemed beyond imagining. The other line was what he was going to tell his father and what was the likelihood that he would be believed. It wasn't hard to imagine that his father would have his brothers take hold of him and lock him in the root cellar until he came to his senses.

Elsa didn't have the leisure to do much thinking that morning. There was the business of running a kingdom and the task of tracking down a sister that had caused her such monumental embarrassment and offered her a chance at a wonderful life, all at the same time. It wasn't until late afternoon that the irrepressible Anna strolled into the modest, if well appointed, room that served as the Royal office. Kristoff followed behind, displaying an air of studied indifference.

"Ah, there they are, my sister and her most favored," Elsa offered by way of greeting, sitting back in the chair behind the table desk.

"Good afternoon, Your Majesty, and sister dear," Anna replied.

Kristoff came to a stop and offered a bow.

"Your Majesty."

"Please, seat yourselves. No need to stand on ceremony."

Anna dropped into one chair and Kristoff took another, not quite relaxing.

"So, how was your journey? Everything to your liking?"

"It was just lovely, Elsa," Anna replied. "The woodcutters and lumbermen were very pleased to see us, although they did most of their

business with the minister you sent."

"And you, Kristoff?"

"Um, I was mostly along for the ride. I did get a chance to talk to a few local icemen, but nothing significant," he replied, his posture indicating he was waiting for something to happen.

"Excellent. I'm so pleased your time was so enjoyable. I on the other hand, had a much different time. Yesterday, in fact. Imagine my surprise when a young man arrives off of one of the southern farms, apparently responding to my summons to appear," Elsa said, her blue eyes looking much like ice from the deepest depth of winter.

"Why did you summon him, sister?" Anna asked.

"I didn't, that's the point. The summons document was obviously a forgery, a very good one, but a fake nonetheless. Imagine my further surprise when it turns out he's an acquaintance of yours, Kristoff. Karl Ericson."

"Oh, yes, I do know him. A very prosperous farm. He does very well by the livestock I understand."

"Enough of this. Anna, how could you? Do you have any idea how embarrassing this all was? What were you thinking and how did you get that document to look so authentic?"

"Okay, lets start at the beginning," Anna began, all pretense put aside. "I could because you needed help from someone who cares about you more than anything else, not a bunch of ministers and foreign heads of state trying to push you into a marriage. And I don't imagine it was any more embarrassing than the thought of marrying a complete stranger and having to share your wedding night with him. I was thinking that I found a most wonderful match in the most unlikely of circumstances and I wanted that chance for you. And apparently I wasn't the only one thinking it otherwise I wouldn't have gotten the help with the document I had, and those names will go with me to my grave."

"And you?" she directed at Kristoff.

"He merely supplied me with a few names of solid, dependable young men that he knew."

Again the icy blue eyes fixed on the burly young man and she said,

"Would you please leave us now, Kristoff? I need to discuss this more with the Princess."

"Of course, Your Majesty," he replied and with a look towards Anna he turned and made his way from the room.

Before Elsa could say anything, Anna was leaning forward in her chair.

"Elsa, you have to know I did this for you. Look at what we ran into at your coronation. A duke and a prince, both of whom tried to kill you. Not to mention being tricked into almost marrying one of them," she said, her expression looking decidedly sour.

"So you thought the way to deal with it was to trick me? And this Karl?"

"Elsa, I didn't know what else to do," Anna said, her voice full of concern. "We have only just now found each other again, and to think of you being forced into some political marriage, maybe to some creepy character like Hans. Honestly, I was desperate."

Elsa stood up and came around her desk and sat down in the chair recently vacated by Kristoff. She took hold of one of Anna's hands and looked her in the eye.

"I love you for your concern, sister dear, but I think it could have been handled better."

"Okay, fine, I'll admit that. But more importantly, what did you think of him?"

Elsa looked at her sister and then slumped back in the chair, her eyes rolled to the ceiling and said,

"My god, he's gorgeous, Anna. Tall, handsome, with shoulders out to here. I swear if you dressed him in bearskins, stuck a horned helmet on his head and handed him an ax, he could come right off the pages of the Sagas."

"Ooooo, tell me more," Anna said eagerly, sitting on the edge of her chair.

"He's intelligent, educated, courteous and he seemed very kind, and for a man his size, rather gentle."


"And I asked him not to dismiss the idea out of hand and to return on the day of the next full moon to discuss it further. I wanted him to see the moon reflecting off the harbor."

"And how did you know what the 'idea' really was?" Anna asked with a sly smile.

"I was pretty sure after about ten minutes, once I realized who the likely forger was. He came to it a bit later. You should have seen the look on the poor man's face. He's was horrified. To tell the truth I was a little insulted at first."

"I'm very glad to hear that, actually. Considering what it might mean to him, being enthusiastic about the idea right from the start might mean he was interested in more than you. He did seem interested in you, didn't he?"

"Eventually. He was very correct and proper the whole time, but near the end of the evening, we were standing on the south parapet, looking out over the town and harbor and he was marshalling arguments against it and one thing he said was that 'simple desire' wasn't enough. He didn't think he was fit for the job, I guess."

"Hmm, desire, that's a good sign. And you?"

"Anna, it embarrasses me to say this, but standing there, with all those stars in the sky, it was all I could do to not throw myself into his arms. Although I'd probably have bloodied my nose on his chest."

Anna sprang out of her chair and began to dance around the room, spinning and skipping and hooting. Elsa watched for a few moments, a small smile curving her lips. After a few minutes she said,

"Alright, sister dear, that's enough crowing. Please sit yourself down."

Anna spun to a stop besides her sister's chair and knelt down next to her. She put her arms around her as best she could and said, suddenly very seriously,

"Elsa, I know deep down, that I have been responsible for a great deal of your problems. I was the one that talked you into turning the ball room into a winter play land and kept pushing until you had to try and keep me from hurting myself. And it was me that let that detestable Hans fool me into wanting to get married after less than a day, and it was me that kept on and on about it until you revealed your powers to everyone at the coronation. I've caused you so much trouble with my unthinking, careless behavior. I'm sorry, Elsa," she said, the façade beginning to crack, "I'm so, so sorry."

And then it was gone to be replaced by a twisted mask of anguish as the tears began to flow and she buried her face in her sister's lap. Anna's hands were clenched in Elsa's gown, her slender body wracked by sobs. Elsa cradled her sister's head and shoulders and tried to comfort her as best she could, but she knew she was just going to have to hold on until Anna cried herself out. It took some time but Anna finally calmed down, but she didn't move or relinquish her hold on Elsa's dress. The Queen sat calmly, slowly stroking the hair of the Princess. Elsa looked down and said,

"Sweetie, I think that troll wizard made a mistake when he took your memories of the magic away. Had you known what I was dealing with it might have made it easier to understand. But, all in all, it's turned out alright and we have this wonderful new beginning. So now that you've gotten this out of your system, I have a very important question to ask you."

Anna rolled her head to the side so she could look up into Elsa's face.

"What's that?"

"Do you wanna build a snowman?"