Disclaimer: I don't own Frozen.
A blowing rain lashed Anna's face as she spurred her horse across the swollen stream. She tugged her hood closer around her face and muttered curses to the weather. Her saddle slipped to and fro on her horse's soggy hide, the beast as soaked and grumpy as its rider. A gust of wind sent wet leaves flapping around them like a flock of dead birds.
She didn't know how long she'd slept, but judging from the blackened sky and the ache in her stomach, it must have been a while. Her father would be sitting near the fire in the dining hall sipping mulled wine and entertaining the dignitary who she was supposed to be meeting tonight.
She gave the reins a sharp tug towards a less steep path. She had no interest in slipping down a hill and breaking a leg. It was a longer route, and not one she often used, but she was in no rush to get home. Her father would be equally furious if she returned now or an hour later.
The trees grew thicker, their gnarled roots threading under the mud. Her steed's tired steps were sucked down by the wet earth until it finally halted, its trembling chest heaving between Anna's thighs. "Come on, boy, just a little farther. We're almost there," she encouraged, patting its sopping mane.
She prompted it forward, and it reluctantly obliged. Squinting the rain out of her eyes, Anna spotted a slope that would lead them to higher ground.
They were almost out of the mud when her stallion stopped again, ears snapping to attention. Anna groaned and lightly kicked her heels. "Why did you stop now? A clean road home is literally right there," she said, barely able to hear herself over the howling wind. The horse remained still.
Anna rolled her eyes. "Fine. Be that way." She tossed a leg over the saddle and landed knee-deep in the mud. She squirmed when mud squelched between her toes. She took hold of the reins and led the horse forward. "The things I do for you—"
The reins pulled taut, yanking her shoulder back at a painful angle. The damn horse was still standing there, anxiously pawing the sodden earth. "Please don't make this difficult." The horse valiantly resisted, its mud-slick legs flailing for traction while Anna dug in her heels, leaning so far back for leverage that she was nearly parallel to the ground.
Anna had won only a few inches of ground before her horse suddenly yanked its head back. It bit its bridle and desperately struggled to get out of her hold. "Come on, ya big baby." She gritted her teeth and gave the slick reins another tug. The beast screamed and reared back, tossing her into the mud with an undignified 'splash' before it raced away.
She quickly sat up and spat mud out of her mouth. "Wait, no no no come back!"
Anna groaned as she watched her mount vanish between the trees. She blew her bangs back to slap against her skull and rolled her tongue around the gritty mud in her mouth.
It wasn't like she couldn't find her way back. She knew every rock and tree and bend in the forest like the back of her hand. It was her sanctuary. She often came out here to get away from her duties, if not for just a little while.
But it was a whole new world at night. It felt less like a sanctuary and more like something the saints had to bless at the witching hour. The trees, so much taller now without the added height of her steed, leered over her like giant shadows, their knotted faces sneering down at her and their clawed branches reaching out to grab her. She quickly got to her feet, trying and failing to suppress a shiver when a glop of mud slid down the back of her once green dress.
Her wet wool cloak clung to her sodden and itching, and her hood fell back off her head, filled with mud. "O-Okay…," she murmured into the wind. A fresh wave of rain blinded her.
She gathered up her mud-caked skirts and trudged up the slope. Her steps were high and awkward from having to lift her knees to her chest at every step. More than once she lost her footing and plopped into the mud.
A snarl from behind her made Anna stop dead in her tracks, her heart leaping into her throat. Kristoff had always warned her that a stray wolf or bear would do her in. Oh nooo, gods forbid I ever listen to my knight.
She scrambled up the hill, slipping on the water-heavy grass. She was about to continue her getaway when the growls jumped in front of her. Then beside her. Then behind. Then front again.
Anna frantically spun in a circle. The wind howled about her, and her breathing quickly became sporadic. The sounds were coming from everywhere. She was surrounded.
No. It's just the wind. It's playing tricks on me. It's just the win—
A roar-like scream nearly made her jump out of her skin. Screaming so loud that her ears rang, Anna dove to the ground, covered her head, and waited for whatever was stalking her to come crashing through the trees, maw mashing and claws ripping through her soft flesh.
She slowly opened her eyes when she found her head still attached to her shoulders. She listened for her carnivorous pursuers, but all she could hear was the dull thump of her pulse rapidly pounding in her ears.
The wind died down to a small gust. The sounds died with it.
Anna shakily got to her feet. When still there was silence, she laughed. It was a small, nervous sound that quickly morphed into a full belly laugh that would make any man question her sanity.
"I must be losing it!" She turned and continued onward, not caring anymore about the mud caking her body.
The scream came again, accompanied by a chorus of growls so animalistic that it was impossible to mistake them for heavy wind.
Is…Is someone being attacked?!
She nearly kicked herself at the realization. She was too busy being a coward to listen to what she was hearing. What if they needed help? What if they were hurt? They're too far from the castle for anyone to hear them—
Well, she was here.
I have to help them.
But what would she do? What could she do? Hell, who was she kidding. She would probably end up helping them get killed.
She should ignore it. Just ignore it and go home.
The scream came again, the note of pain in its tenor making Anna's stomach twist to the point that she thought she'd be sick.
What are you doing?! she screamed at herself as her legs pelted her towards the scream.
It took a few minutes of running in circles until she was able to pinpoint where the sound was coming from. It wasn't too far from where she lost her horse.
She climbed a slope into a cluster of high bushes and pines. She shivered when the next wind that hit her was cold, and for a second she forgot it was late summer. The growls and human—female, she realized—yelps of pain were coming from just beyond the bushes.
Anna crouched, ignoring the pointed leaves that snagged her skin and thanking the gods that she was downwind so that her scent would be masked. There was a sound of struggling, of snarls and splashes of mud. With her curiosity now overriding her fear, she turned her head an inch at a time from behind the bush.
The first thing she noticed was the ice. It stuck to every surface in a thick sheet, consuming the forest inches at a time in an otherworldly uniformity. It moved like it was a living organism, creeping up the trees and along the ground in a pulsing movement from some unseen heart. She released a shaky breath and was only half-surprised when it came out as a white puff.
"Ahhhh!" Anna's attention snapped to the figure struggling in the nearly frozen mud. With a flick of their wrist, an ice dagger materialized in their hand. It was quickly stabbed at the person's ankle, the piercing screech of unyielding metal making Anna cringe. An irritated, wolf-like growl tore from the figure's throat as they threw aside the now broken tool.
Anna sat and stared while her mind reassessed her current reality and got her motor functions back into working order.
She, of course, tried to be scared after she realized that she was not dreaming and that there was actual, real-life, non-fiction, wholly authentic magic happening before her eyes. That was, after all, the normal reaction.
So naturally, she stifled a giggle in the back of her throat and jumped a bit when butterflies paraded her stomach. She couldn't help it. It was like she was watching a scene from one of the tales Gerda told her in her girlhood. The ice pulsed in parallel to the person's movements, sudden jagged spurts erupting when they growled or threw something. It was as if it were an extension of their being—like they and the ice were the same living force.
And the sounds they made.
They must be a god who decided to take on human flesh. It was the only logical...well, possible explanation. Gerda told her many stories of Odin taking on animal and human form while on Earth or of Loki shifting into a hawk to aid his travels. Maybe this one changed from animal to human and forgot which one it was?
The figure grunted and turned, giving Anna a clear view of their profile. It was a woman, though she was caked in so much mud that the only indication of her gender was the slope of her breasts under her tattered clothes and the octave of her earlier screams. Her long, loose hair stuck down her back, slick with mud and knotted with foliage.
The woman bared her teeth and growled, the deep sound grinding through Anna's ears like crushed stones and making her skin crawl with the instinctive urge to get the hell away from there. Her mind reeled as the butterflies in her stomach quickly twisted into a cold knot.
That...That sound was far too terrifying to come from an animal. Disguised god or not, an animal can only behave in the realms of its natural abilities.
This was a beast all to its own caliber.
The woman tried and failed to pry open the bands of metal ensnaring her ankle. Her hands faintly glowed an unnatural blue, and a chiming hum filled the air as frost twisted around the metal.
Is that a...a game trap?
Anna would have laughed if she didn't already know the supposed woman could kill her with little trouble, even if she was immobilized. It's strangely fitting that a person acting so animal-like would be caught like one.
The woman released the metal with a frustrated roar, rubbing her sore palms. She scooted closer to the trap and tenderly lifted her snared foot to the side, revealing the short chain beneath it that anchored it to a weight buried in the ground. She grabbed the chain with both hands, took a deep breath, and pulled until the chain groaned.
"Come on...," Anna found herself whispering. She couldn't help but empathize with the woman…deadly creature…thing. The trap was meant for some common game, but she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Looks like we have that in common.
Anna felt her hope for her freedom falter as the woman grew desperate, yanking as hard as she could though her efforts yielded nothing. She kept at it until her muddied hands lost their grip and she fell back, yelping when she jarred her ankle.
The rain continued to pelt around them, the frost cracking and reforming after every drop of warm rain.
The woman gritted her teeth and clenched her hands into fists. She howled in anger—and what almost sounded like grief—and flung her arm to the side, a thick wave of jagged ice consuming the trees like a frozen ocean wave breaking on a boulder.
She waited for her angry panting to subside before she let her outstretched arm plop into the mud. She stayed like that for a long minute before she sat up and longingly stared at her trapped foot. Her shoulders slumped, and her chin fell to her chest, a keening whine like a beaten animal gritting past her clenched teeth before choking into a whimper.
Anna would have sworn she was crying had the rain not made it hard to tell. The woman looked like she was resigning herself to death—as if she were an exhausted hare waiting for whoever set its trap to put it out of its misery.
Well, one look at the winter wonderland of horror she made and nobody would hesitate to kill her…
A light snow began to fall.
The woman's grief sapped into Anna like water into a bleached sponge. The princesses' skin grew too tight, and the heavy stone settling in the pit of her belly nearly made her nauseous.
She can't just...give up, Anna thought, the woman's utter defeat constricting her chest like an iron maiden and forcing the air from her lungs.
She quietly shuffled her sleeping feet, the static in her toes temporarily relieving her from her empathy. She knew she should be afraid of the woman. She was an abomination to nature, not god or human or animal. Every cell in Anna's being screamed for her to run because the woman didn't belong here. Not in Arendelle, not in this world. She was just...she was a monster.
You don't know that, Anna told her shaking hands. You…You can't look at a pool and say it's shallow before stepping in it. She could be friendly. The redhead took a deep breath, and it blew away a bit of her shaking.
The woman stretched out her leg. In a flash of soft blue light, a large knife materialized in her hand. It was a thick curved blade, nearly transparent where it sharpened to a point. For a second Anna found her hope again. However, there was no need for the woman to be biting a stick. And the look her cool blue eyes made when she glanced between the blade and her foot was a little concerning. Is she—
Anna's breath hitched as the woman drew her arm back to deliver the amputating blow.
"Stop!" she screeched, jumping out of her bush.
The woman's head whipped around so fast that Anna felt her own neck twitch. Her look of surprise and almost fear quickly morphed into a snarl that made her look more animal than human. She threw the knife, the ice shattering into a dozen smaller blades as it sped towards its redheaded target.
Nope! Not friendly! Definitely NOT friendly!
Anna treaded mud as she frantically ran to cover. A deep slice to her cheek made her stumble, and just as she regained her footing, another larger volley of ice pelted towards her. Anna screamed and jumped behind a tree. A pit of terror knotted in her stomach when she both heard and felt the projectiles sink into the tree in several meaty thuds.
Anna choked on her breath when the air suddenly dropped to freezing. She watched with mounting horror as frost crept over her wet clothes in silver webs. She flexed her hands, and a thin layer of frozen rain cracked and fell off her skin before another replaced it.
This is it. This is how I'm gonna die.
She struggled to swallow back her panic. She just wanted to go home.
Her first string of pleas broke the knot in her throat and let her tears loose. "P-Please, I just—!" She was interrupted with more thuds, the shards of ice violently shaking her tree.
"I'm not g-going to hurt you, I—!" There was a strange whizzing sound, and Anna screamed when she found herself flanked by two large fans of angry spiked ice.
"K-Kristoff...," she sobbed, desperately wishing that her knight would appear to save her. Like he always did when she screwed up.
Why did she come here? She should have just gone home. Kristoff would have just gone home. Anyone else but her would have just gone home.
She didn't realize she was sobbing in earnest until she could hear herself. Her choked weeping echoed around the icy hollow.
…No. Anna bit the inside of her cheek until blood pooled over her tongue. I'm not going to cry. I am the princess of Arendelle, dammit!
Anna gave herself thirty-two seconds to calm her breathing, forcing herself into rational thought and almost ignoring the ice creeping around her.
She had a plan. It was a stupid plan, but it was her only plan. And if she stayed still for much longer, there would be no more tree for her to hide behind.
When there was another pause in the attacks, Anna quickly stepped out from behind the tree, hoping that her face didn't give away how terrified she was.
Like a wild animal, the growling woman was defensively crouched, clearly uncomfortable with being out in the open while she fought off a potential threat. Her jewel-like eyes gave Anna a curious glance-over before her magic swirled around her wrists.
"If you want to kill me, fine! D-Do it! But just so you know, that without me, y-you can't get out!" she yelled, her shrill voice sounding just as pathetic and squeaky as she feared it would. She could see the tree she had been hiding behind at the edge of her vision. If the ice wasn't meant to kill her, she would have thought it beautiful. But, seeing as that wasn't the case, she couldn't help but shudder at the size of the spikes impaling the bark.
She searched the woman's face for any reaction to her words, but the only cue for her to continue speaking was the lack of ice flying at her.
She swallowed dryly, hoping her voice wouldn't waver this time. "T-That's right. I-I know how to get you out of that thing." The woman growled, and the humming glow of magic between her hands brightened. "B-But even if I can't, you're going to die anyway. I don't think whoever set that would let a…a-a…," she stuttered. "H-He just wouldn't let you go, okay? You can kill me and your one chance of getting out of here and t-then die yourself, or you can let me try and get you out."
Or you could kill me and cut off your foot...
She tried not to think about that. If the woman was willing to hack off a limb to avoid being found, then why would she even consider her offer? Well…she could agree to let her help and then kill her.
Anna swallowed hard, her endless optimism beginning to fail her.
Icy blue eyes bored into frightened teal, their gaze revealing nothing about what the woman was thinking. A thick bead of blood ran down Anna's cheek. The magic in the woman's hands continued to swirl, its rhythmic hum almost soothing over the roar of the rain.
The woman finally lowered her hands, her face a distrustful scowl and a growl rumbling deep in the back of her throat. The temperature rose fractionally, the frost on the mud and trees melting to dew and mixing with the rain.
Anna didn't move right away. I…I can't believe that worked… She took a step forward, completely expecting it to be her last. When she found herself not impaled, she nearly jumped for joy. But she was careful to keep her movements deliberate and slow as she approached the woman, praying that her innate clumsiness wouldn't get her killed. The woman uncomfortably shifted on the ground the closer she got.
The woman scooted away when Anna crouched near the chain, distancing herself as far as she could physically manage without straining her ankle. She growled, and her magic hummed around her hands in a quiet yet powerful threat. Anna tried to think nothing of it, just as she tried to think that her hands were shaking because of the cold.
The metal bands dug deep into the woman's skin, the flesh around it puffed up in disgusting shades of red while blood oozed from the open wound and caked with mud around the trap. Anna ran her hands over the metal as she inspected the snare. The woman snapped up and snarled at her when she accidentally brushed her shin, the movement as quick and aggressive as a cobra strike. "S-Sorry!"
Careful not to make any physical contact whatsoever, Anna tilted the trap to look at its underside. She gave an audible "Ah-ha!" when she spotted the tension mechanism. She twisted and pulled the pin that held it together. The woman winced when she accidentally jarred the trap, but the princess didn't stop until the pin was free and the tension released her ankle.
Anna smiled so broadly that her cheeks ached. YES! I did it! She tossed the pin and wiped the rain and sweat that had gathered on her brow. "That wasn't so—"
The sudden feeling of bark against her back forced the air from her lungs, and the cold hand squeezing her throat kept her from refilling them. She grabbed the offending arm, digging her nails into the corded muscle that easily held her in place. She felt frost crawl around her throat and up her jaw.
The woman bared her teeth in a pointed snarl, her sharp canines peeking over her lower teeth. Her free hand hummed with icy magic she promised to use. The woman certainly didn't seem like she was a head taller when she was sitting down, but now that she was leering over her, Anna found that she had underestimated her in more ways than one.
Anna felt a tear run down her cheek. She knew she shouldn't have gotten her hopes up. The woman wanted no witness.
She was going to kill her.
The woman's face lowered until their noses almost touched. Her snarl receded to a threatening growl though it was no less terrifying. Her narrowed eyes flickered over Anna's reddening face, her nostrils flaring and her mouth parted. Her grip loosened to give the princess just enough air to wheeze.
Black spots danced at the edge of Anna's vision, the world around her narrowing to the arctic gaze intently staring at her. She waited for something to happen—an icicle to sprout from her chest, her neck to snap, her body to freeze—but the woman just stared at her.
The black crowding her vision turned to stars when the back of her head smacked against the tree. The pressure on her throat disappeared. Her shaky legs gave out beneath her, and she slumped to the ground, her open mouth gulping greedy amounts of oxygen.
Her head lolled to the side, her blurry eyes frantically searching for the woman.
But to her relief, she was gone.
Thoughts? If you could drop a review that would be awesome (it won't hurt your fingers, I promise), but if you can't, I still luv u:3