Prologue

Einar made the treacherous trek down the slope toward the bog. He didn't mind the destination, but he wished the journey was easier. One wrong slip and he could tumble to his death. He supposed the trolls preferred it that way, though; it ensured few people bothered them.

Einar respected the trolls for their wisdom. The knowledge of their location had been passed down in his family from generation to generation. Despite the unfavorable fairy tales and the reputation of the particularly nasty tribe of trolls to the north, he understood these particular bog trolls were creatures in their own right. They deserved their space.

Though they rarely interacted with one another, the long history with his family and the troll tribe granted an amenable relationship between the two. It was desperate times like these when that relationship was called upon.

Einar's foot slipped on the muddy ground, and he reached out to grab the rock face of the cliff. He regained his balance, and continued his descent. It'd be a lot safer if he could bring someone with him to watch his back, but he couldn't risk anyone's safety.

At last, he reached the bottom where the ground was surprisingly solid. There was also very little smell – a testament, perhaps, to the trolls' magic.

The cliff formed a half circle around the bog, and Einar walked into the center of it, which was covered in round stones of various sizes.

"It is I," he announced to the stones. "I request your assistance."

The stones trembled and then turned outward, revealing that they weren't stones at all. Einar was soon surrounded by the tribe of trolls, none of which were taller than his waist.

Agata, the tribal leader, pushed her way forward. She was blind in one eye, her clothing was severely worn and patched, and her dark hair hung in matted strands around her face. But Einar knew better than to judge her.

She turned her hands over and took a deep breath as though smelling the air. "You've come about your brother."

"Yes," Einar told her, not surprised anymore at Agata's fortune telling ability. "I'm afraid …" He paused. Weakness was not something he was used to admitting. "I don't know what to do. What he's done … he cannot do again."

Han's actions at Arendelle had been shocking news to hear. He hadn't realized his youngest brother's desires had run so deep. The near murders of the Princess and Queen? All because he had desired power? Einar doubted Hans had planned things to go so far. But still, he hardly knew the man his brother had become, and he doubted a stern talking to would fix the problem. If allowed to walk free, what would prevent Hans from trying again somewhere else?

But, a harsher punishment also left little to be desired. An ordinary criminal would be thrown in the jail house at best and sentenced to death at worse. But this was his brother. And he couldn't help but feel some guilt over how things had turned out.

There was no doubt among his brothers that Hans could have been raised better. The responsibility had fallen to them, after all. And Einar was well aware of his own short comings when it came to the job. He'd been too grieved over his parents' deaths and the responsibility of the rule of the kingdom to do Hans' rearing justice.

If he'd failed then, he couldn't fail now. He had to know what path was right to take.

"Hans will go into exile."

"Exile?" Einar breathed, turning his attention back to Agata. He trusted her wisdom, but it still felt wrong somehow. "Are you sure –?"

"He will be angry," Agata continued, waving her hands in the air like she was forming shapes within it. "He will become complacent. And then he will learn wisdom." She lowered her hands. "You may visit him. Love can aid the healing process, even when the one on the receiving end does not want it."

Einar sighed. He still didn't like the solution. But then, he supposed nothing would have truly appealed to him. What he really wanted was his brother to be an infant again so he could do the whole thing over. But he wouldn't get that wish. He'd only get Agata's advice, and he knew better than to not take it.

"Thank you," he said, bowing to her. He straightened, and then turned to leave.

"Wait," said Agata. Another troll ran up to her and handed over a vial of some green substance. Agata held it out to Einar. "Give this to Gerold."

"Gerold?" asked Einar, stretching out his hand. His younger brother had suffered for years. Was it possible the trolls had finally found a way to help? "Can this – will it–?"

"It will relieve his symptoms for one week," she said as he took the vial. "Do not waste the opportunity."

Before Einar could ask for clarification, he found himself surrounded by rocks once again.