*gasp* it's an update!

Sorry this took so long, people! If you've visited my profile recently, you'll have read that I'm currently residing in a terrible writing funk. It's not that I don't *want* to write, it's just that I literally can't seem to get more than three words a day down, and even then it's mostly rubbish.

I'm doing writing exercises and am trying very hard to get back in the swing of things, but honesty compels me to let you all know that it's a process, and I'm far from where I want to be. Nevertheless, here's an update for y'all.

It's a bit shorter than you're used to, probably, but I figured that by now, something would be preferable over nothing. Also, we're slowly (mind you, I said slowly) rolling towards the end of this story. I'd tell you how many chapters we have left, but that would mean I'd actually know… and I don't. Yet.

Her mother would have been disappointed to see the utter lack of poise, grace and sophistication with which she entered the room. It had always been her intention that the crown princess of DunBroch would become as much of a royal lady as herself, and had she seen Merida's entry into the hall, she would have known that was never going to happen.

The heavy oak door slammed against the grey wall roughly, causing the nearby suit of armour to rattle on its stand. Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel and General Novirrin each whirled their heads around in her direction, and on any other day, Merida might have been afraid to be impaled by Elsa's ice. Today, she had larger concerns.

"Elsa, good, there you are!" she huffed and panted, elbows resting on her knees as she tried to catch her breath.

"Merida? For heaven's sake, what is going on? Are you alright?" Elsa asked, voice laced with concern as she stepped towards the redhead. "What happened?"

"I've been cursed!" Merida howled dramatically. When there was no other response than four sets of raised eyebrows, she huffed again, blowing a lock of hair from her face. "I'm tellin' ya! That bloody wench used her magics on me!"

Before Elsa could ask what they were even talking about, Rapunzel stepped forward, murmuring quietly. "She means Miss Esmeralda."

"Aye!" Merida continued, fanning her face. "She even admitted it!"

"She did?" Anna asked, looking a little taken aback.

"Aye!" Merida continued. "I asked what her powers were, and she told me she could seduce folks!"

To everyone's surprise, Novirrin let out a rather audible snort of laughter. "That's not exactly… I mean… Well, let's face it, she doesn't really need her magic to seduce people."

Rapunzel grinned impishly. "Mer… Are you telling me you're…?"

"Nay!" Merida howled in protest. "She's cursed me, I'm tellin y'all!"

"That's not exactly how it works, dear," a voice came from the doorway. Merida twirled around, hand already reaching for her bow, only to stop in mid-air as she saw Esmeralda, casually leaning against the doorframe, with a little swallow made of ice fluttering around her head. "You'd asked for me, Your Majesty?" she asked smoothly, turning her attention to Elsa.

The blonde nodded stiffly. "Indeed. Though, before we discuss business, I think we might want to get to the bottom of this."

Esmeralda smiled charmingly. "I swear that I have not used my magic on your friend, even if she's really pretty. Novirrin can vouch for me."

Without giving anyone time to respond, Esmeralda turned her attention to Merida, staring intensely. "Please give me your bow, love," she smiled sweetly.

"You're out of yer mind if ye think yer getting me bow!" Merida groused sourly, eyes narrowing at the other woman.

Novirrin chuckled humourlessly. "It's settled then, Esmeralda did not use her magic. If she had, you'd be handing your bow over quicker than you could say bullseye."

Esmeralda shrugged. "It's true. When my powers are involved, free will is not. Hence, I'd never use it on someone as genuinely adorable as yourself."

Elsa looked around the room for a moment, eyes resting on Merida first, then Esmeralda, before turning to Novirrin and Rapunzel, before finally coming to rest on Anna. Only when the redhead gave her a small nod, did Elsa sigh softly. "I'm sorry to say this, Merida, but if you're experiencing any foreign emotions, they are not coming from magic. Not that kind of magic, at least…"

Merida huffed a final time, glaring at Esmeralda as she took up her position behind Elsa and Rapunzel. The little wave and wink Esmeralda shot her way didn't seem to be appreciated.

"Miss Esmeralda," Elsa picked up, "we'll be travelling back to Arendelle tomorrow morning. The Judge has recommended you and Novirrin travel with us to help us deal with the arcane side of this war. That is, if you're amenable to that idea."

"It would be my honour, Your Majesty," Esmeralda responded with a curtsy. "I shall pack my bags this very instant. Princess Merida, would you care to help me?"

No one understood Merida's grumbled response, but everyone took it to mean that she was not interested in helping Esmeralda with anything.

Colton sighed as the lantern that hung from the ceiling violently shook back and forth, making it practically impossible to read the letter he had spread out on his desk. Lady Yuwin had sent an ill-looking raven to deliver her latest orders earlier that day, but with the seas being as they were, every man had been forced to help keep the ships on course.

His sighs turned into loud and violent curses as a particularly violent wave tossed the ship around, causing his goblet to tumble over and his wine to spill over the parchment. "For crying out loud," he muttered through gritted teeth. "No way I'm going to send Yuwin a letter telling her I couldn't read her orders because I spilled my wine… It was probably nothing special anyhow," he though out loud, rubbing his chin.

"Master Colton!" a voice came from somewhere outside his cabin. "The storm's getting worse, we need you out here, now!"

When he left his cabin and sprinted up the few steps to reach the deck, it was as if he walked into an entirely different world. Rain was dropping down on them so fiercely he could hardly see two feet in front of him. Ironically, the only time when visibility was slightly better, was when the massive lightning bolts lit up the sky and painted everything in a scary fluorescent white.

"If we don't do something," he heard the ship's captain yell from somewhere on his right, "we'll all be down with the fishes before we even reach the ice!"

"What do you expect me to do?" Colton yelled in return. "It's not like I can stop the storm!"

"No magic is going to help us now, boy!" the withered old captain returned harshly, appearing out of nowhere and grabbing his arm. "Tonight, you're just like us normal people. Hold these ropes and don't let them slip. If you give them an inch, they'll throw you overboard. And don't think we'll be finding your body out there, neither!"

As Colton wrapped the rope around his wrist and hooked his feet under the wooden bannister to give himself some leverage, he quietly prayed to each and every deity he knew, asking to bring him to his destination safely, but promising nothing in return.

The knock to his door came just as he was finishing up his lunch, which had been brought to his room exactly at noon, delivered by an Arendelle Royal Guard who was curt, but not unkind. Like everyone else here in Arendelle, the Druid figured. All in all, he was being treated a lot better than he probably deserved.

"Come in, please," he called, not getting up from his seat. As soon as he noticed who'd entered, however, he felt he needed to get up, if only so he could properly bow. "Your Highness," he murmured.

Jasmine chuckled and waved her hand as if she were bothered by an annoying insect. "Please, you haven't bowed for me during our journey, I see no need to do so now."

"I didn't know you were a princess during our journey," the Druid said with a tight smile.

Jasmine shrugged carelessly. "It seemed easier not to tell you. Besides, I do not think you would have taken my word for it."

The Druid nodded sagely. "It does seem rather unlikely. Arendelle employing a foreign princess as a spy in the lion's den, so to speak."

"Tsk. I've never cared much for the typical princess lifestyle," Jasmine revealed, plopping down on one of the empty chairs.

"Where are you from, if I might be so bold as to ask?" the Druid continued, eager for some human interaction.

"My father is the Sultan of Agrabah," Jasmine smiled. "It's quite a bit east of here," she continued with a breezy shrug.

"I've heard of it," the Druid nodded. "I believe I've even seen some of its deserts, when I shook hands with a merchant who had, quite literally, travelled the world."

Jasmine's smile grew slightly smaller. "Well, if you've seen the desert, you might not have such a hard time understanding why I needed a break. That, and the fact my father kept insisting I pick a suitor."

"You do not wish to marry?"

"I do. But when I marry, I want it to be for love, and not out of duty or tradition. It took a lot of effort to explain that to my father, though."

The two of them were silent for a while, before Jasmine sighed gently and spoke again. "I came to tell you that Queen Elsa will be returning to Arendelle either tomorrow or the day after. It seems likely she will want to meet you shortly after that, alongside the other Onyx Tower conspirator."

"The other?" the Druid asked with a frown. "Do you mean the one in your dungeons?"

"No," Jasmine smiled. "I meant the one that will be accompanying Queen Elsa on her journey from the Grey Gardens back to Arendelle."

"Ah," the Druid nodded slowly. "That would be Novirrin, then. It appears I will not have as much information to offer as I had hoped…"

"No need to worry," Jasmine said gently. "Information or not, Arendelle won't treat you poorly because of your previous affiliations. After all, you're as much a victim as many, many others are."

"Unlike many others, though," the Druid countered with a forlorn expression, "I'm also one of the people who committed countless horrible acts in her name."

"Yes, well," Jasmine sighed, "we all have to take the good and the bad, don't we?"

"I suppose that is true, yes," the Druid sighed.

Elsa smiled at her redheaded fiancée as they came to an abrupt halt for the sixth time in as many minutes. This time, the younger woman was just looking at the grey leaves overhead, serene smile gracing her lips.

"I've never seen anything like this forest, Elsa!" she sighed quietly, looking truly content.

"And save for future visits to the Grey Gardens, I doubt you ever will again," Elsa smiled in return, gently pulling Anna along as they continued their stroll.

"Do you think there will be any? Future visits, I mean?" Anna asked, carefully holding on to Elsa's arm so as not to trip while looking everywhere except for the ground she was walking on.

"Now that the Grey Gardens and Arendelle are allies, we might be able to continue our interactions in the future. And as Queen of Arendelle, you will have as much reason to come here as I," Elsa responded after a while.

Unexpectedly, Anna started giggling. "Me, becoming a queen. I still can't really believe it!" she laughed giddily.

Elsa felt the corners of her lips tilting upwards. "It's not as ridiculous as you're making it sound, my love," she chided gently.

"Really?" Anna asked. "You don't think it sounds far-fetched? A poor farming girl meets the queen of a kingdom, the most beautiful woman in the world, who can also create magical ice? And then, through a series of unforeseen events, and some meddling friends, they end up falling in love, getting engaged, and eventually married?"

Elsa hummed thoughtfully. "The only thing that sounds far-fetched about that is the queen being the most beautiful woman. That, obviously, has to be the farming girl."

"Flatterer," Anna accused playfully, pulling Elsa closer to her side.

Elsa shrugged. "I mean, why else would I be marrying you, if not your looks?" she asked innocently.

"Ouch!" Anna grimaced jokingly. "And here I was, thinking it was my awesome personality!" she continued, giving Elsa a playful shove.

"Oh, right," Elsa gasped, as if she only just remembered. "There's that, too!"

They quietly laughed together, eventually stopping their stroll to observe a small gathering of squirrels racing through the trees. Before they knew it, a solemn silence had fallen over them.

"Elsa? What will be waiting for us when we get home?" Anna asked, worrying her lower lip between her teeth.

Elsa sighed again, softly running her hand up and down Anna's arm. "The future," she responded simply. "Together," she added after almost a minute of silence.

Anna sighed, sounding slightly less worried than before. "Always together."

Not to be greedy or anything, but reviews tend to be a good way to motivate me to write more/better/faster. Just saying ;)