A/N: First off, the usual disclaimer, I don't own Frozen or the characters, and this story is strictly for entertainment purposes.

A/N 2: This story is in no way related to my Wings of Ice story. This one is in a separate AU. Yes, it will be Elsanna. Yes, there will be magic. Sorry if those aren't your things.

I'm not sure how long this one will be right now, but I'll try to figure that out soon. The update schedule will be a bit slower than Wings, probably every other week or so. Also, the rating will probably be M.

A/N 3: This starts out a bit dark, so yeah...

Winter's Mirror

Chapter 01

Starting Life Over Again

Anna Summers set down her phone with a sigh. Another wasted Saturday of touring apartments she couldn't afford or didn't like. The latest one had been decent, but with no laundry in the building and nothing close, that was unacceptible. One she visited earlier this morning had been very nice, but a few hundred dollars a month too much for her. This one had no parking, that was run by a sleazy landlord who'd spent the whole tour trying to peer down her blouse, another was simply too small for how much was asked per month.

The redhead slumped in her chair. She'd been lucky enough to find a job as a restoration specialist at the museum, especially since she had just moved out west to Seattle. She'd never really liked New York, but Adam's import business had been headquartered there and she'd had her job at one of the more prominent art galleries. Plus, she'd been able to take various classes at the universities, dabbling in anything that caught her interest.

That had been Anna's life for the better part of the past six years. They'd moved to New York shortly after she'd graduated college so that Adam could take over the family business, and married a little later. Over the years, she drifted out of contact with her friends from college, time and distance and life driving a wedge between them. Making friends at work and keeping them also proved a challenge. As Adam's resposibilities at the company expanded, she found herself helping him more and more, until she was down to working part time for a few hours a week. They didn't need the money, but Anna needed to do something to keep herself busy.

It didn't help that since Adam ran the company, she was expected to host the spouses of the other upper members of the business. That particular aspect, Anna despised. She had nothing in common with the women she was forced to socialize with. Most of them were more concerned with status and reputation and money. She had to put up with constant slights and insults when she entertained them, making every 'party' an exercise in aggravation. The few who didn't were too busy with their families, and since Anna and Adam didn't have children, she had little to share with them either.

That had been her life most days. Go to work a few days, attend some classes, but for the most part her time was spent working with Adam as he took the reins of the import business. And as their success grew, Anna grew more and more miserable. Adam spent the majority of his time in the office while she struggled to find a real purpose in her life. Where once they'd shared as much time together as they could, they soon found themselves with nothing except for the import firm in common. Towards the end, they were little more than two people who happened to live in the same apartment. Looking back, all the signs had been there, but she'd convinced herself to ignore them while she tried to preserve their marriage.

Anna shut the door behind herself and dropped her bag on the floor while she kicked off her shoes. She resisted the urge to slump down right there. It figured that this would happen today. She'd been looking forward to class, considering the week she'd been through. Not just one, but two office parties at Adam's business, plus their housekeeper had quit, so she'd spent several days interviewing replacements. All in all, she needed a break, and her Friday morning art class usually did the trick.

So after a miserable week, she wasn't in the best mood to travel all the way across the city to find out her professor cancelled class without letting anyone know. She could have stayed there, maybe shopped some or gotten lunch at a restaurant, but her heart just wasn't in it. She headed back to the apartment, cursing her bad luck.

Anna slowly made her way to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. She sat down on couch, but didn't bother to turn on the TV. Nothing good was on this time of day, and she had no interest in putting in a movie right now. She needed to do something today, make it not a total loss. Maybe after her coffee, she could go to the park. It was a pretty nice day, and she might be able to salvage something after all. She'd already done several sketches there, and could usually find something to inspire her.

She shuffled towards the bedroom when a noise stopped her. She heard someone moving rapidly in there, and Adam was supposed to be at work. She pulled out her phone and got ready to dial 911. Her heart hammered in her chest as she tiptoed towards the door...

Anna didn't know why she'd been so surprised. They'd been drifting apart for years now, with Adam spending most of his time at work. The scattered clothes as well as the unmade bed, along with Adam's look of guilt made it very obvious what was going on. The quiet noises coming from the closet told her where his slut was hiding.

"Anna..." Adam was wearing only a towel, and the way he tried to cover as much of himself as he could broadcast his shame. "It's not what it looks like."

"I should have known." Anna growled. "Who is it?"

"Anna!" A desperate note entered his voice.

She stomped over to the closet and slammed it open. Once again, she probably should have guessed, but seeing Belle was still a shock. The other woman was a few years older than either of them, and she'd worked at the company since Adam's father had owned it. She was one of the few women at the business who Anna considered to be sort of a friend. She'd been a regular guest with them for some time now, though lately there had been an odd tension between her and Anna, and now Anna knew why.

It was all so clear now. The 'late meetings', the cancelled weekend plans to deal with problems that suddenly cropped up, the lack of interest he'd had in her lately, all of it.

"Her?" Anna's voice was calm, barely hinting at the rage seething inside her. "God, Adam, no wonder you're always 'busy' these days."

"It was a mistake, Anna." He pleaded.

"A mistake? 'Whoops, she was over to visit and I tripped on top of her naked?' " She sneered. " 'Oops, I forgot to mention I was taking the day off to bang my assistant?' "

She stormed over to her dresser and started pulling clothes out. She grabbed her suitcase from the closet, pointedly ignoring Belle who was trying to dress in one corner of the room. Hans reached out and tried to hold her hand, but she recoiled from him. "What are you doing Anna?"

"Leaving." She bit out.

"I'm so sorry, Anna. It won't happen again, I swear." He moved again to stop her, stepping between her and the door.

"Get out of my way, Adam." Anna pushed past him and slammed the door behind herself. She stormed to the elevator and hammered the door close button. Once she was sealed away, she chose the parking garage. She rarely drove these days, but she did have her own car, a luxury Adam insisted on. The irony of using that car to get away from him now didn't escape her. She stowed her bag in the trunk and drove off, no clear destination in mind. She kept going until she left the city and headed northeast. Her mother was in Boston, and while Adam might guess that she'd go there, he probably wouldn't follow her. Her mother had never liked him all that much, and he'd returned the feeling. She decided to go there, at least as a start.

Anna let the miles fly by, her mind racing as she drove. What she needed most of all was time. She pulled her phone from her purse and turned it off. Adam had already left several messages, but she had no intention of reading them, or listening to the voicemails he recorded either. Probably just more excuses or pleading.

It was starting to get dark when she parked in front of her mother's house in the suburbs. The lights were on, and she could see her mother's car parked in the garage. She fetched her suitcase from the trunk and locked the car, taking a deep breath before knocking.

"Anna! Good to see you!" Her mother enfolded her in a hug. Idunn stepped back and took in her face. "Oh god, what's wrong sweetie?"

"Can I stay for a bit, Mom?" Anna buried her face on her mother's shoulders. Her voice was an unsteady whisper.

"Of course." Idunn helped her daughter inside, setting the suitcase down in the hallway. She guided Anna to the couch, settling her there while she dashed to the kitchen to put on some hot water. She sat down next to her daughter. "What happened?"

"Adam..." Anna started, cutting herself off with a hiccuping sob. "He... He..."

"Anna, take your time. You don't have to talk until you're ready. I'll get the guest room ready, but in the meantime, how about some hot chocolate?" She gave her daughter a comforting smile.

"I'm not five, Mom." She managed a weak grin.

"Or ten, or fifteen, or twenty... If you ever quit chocolate, Hershey's would probably go out of business." Idunn hugged her again. "So let's get some sugar in you and then get you a good night's sleep, and we'll talk in the morning."

Anna barely remembered going to bed, but once there, she'd slept deeply, not waking until well past ten. She yawned and stretched, crawling out of bed. She could smell the lingering aroma of breakfast drifting from the kitchen. Waffles, eggs, coffee, sausage... Her mother's cooking was always amazing, and from the scent, she could tell that Idunn had waited until she heard her waking up before getting it all ready.

"Hey Sunflower, don't drool on the floor, get some food." Idunn gestured towards the stove with her spatula. Anna didn't need a second invitation before grabbing a plate and piling on plenty of everything. She sat at the table, noting the cup of coffee at the place opposite from her. Apparently her mother was serious when she said they were going to be talking this morning. She surrendered to the inevitable and tried to concentrate on enjoying the food.

"Okay, now that we've filled the bottomless pit a little, how about you tell me exactly what you're doing here?" Idunn pinned her in her seat with her gaze. "What did Adam do this time?"

"He... it's over, Mom." Anna couldn't think of an easy way to put it. "My class got cancelled and I got home, and he... with her..." She collapsed back in her chair. Her eyes watered up. "God, I feel so stupid!"

"Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry." Her mother hugged her. "You can stay as long as you need. And you're not stupid."

"But I should have seen it coming." Anna cried. "I just let him lie to me over and over and over again. All those late meetings and work emergencies..." The rest of the details spilled out of her without any control. It was like she was watching herself recite the story from outside her body. Her mother simply listened, not judging or interrupting her. "...and I just couldn't stay. I had to get away, get some room to breathe."

"Oh Anna." Idunn held her, rocking her softly. "I'm so sorry this happened to you, Sunflower. You don't deserve this."

"He... I thought we loved each other." She hiccuped. "I know we had our problems, but I never thought... Oh god..."

"Anna, it's not your fault, at all. You did your best." Her mother comforted her. "You're a good person, you want to believe the best about everyone else too."

"What do I do, Mom?" Anna sighed.

"Well, first you're going to be a guest here for a few more days before you make any decisions." Idunn replied firmly. "You need perspective and rest."

Anna spent the next few days helping her mother around the house and getting a handle on everything that had happened. Her mother flat out refused to take any calls from Adam, and Anna was grateful for her interference. The older woman was right, space and time helped. Well, space, time and really good food. Idunn's all-purpose remedy of food worked wonders for her.

"Ready to face the real world, Sunflower?" Her mother asked as she helped Anna pack her bag.

"Yeah, thanks for all the help, Mom. It's time to deal with this." Anna snapped the latches closed. "I have to go back."

"You've figured out what you want to do?" Idunn sat on the bed, smiling proudly at her daughter.

"Yes, something I probably should have done a while ago." She nodded firmly. "It's time I live my own life. On my terms, no one else's."

It was hard, but she managed to remain strong on her return to New York. Adam looked like a deer in headlights when she presented him with the divorce papers. She tried to keep things civil between them, but after catching him in bed with Belle had sort of been the last straw, and her temper boiled over. All the small insults and discomfort she'd had to put up with over the years spilled out of her and things rapidly turned ugly between them. She couldn't believe how many thing's he'd been blind to and it really pissed her off.

The proceedings worked out in her favor of course, but she took little joy in it. Once it was all done, she finalized the details of her move to Seattle, wanting, needing, a fresh start. Her mother had lobbied for Boston, but she was firm in her resolve. She promised she'd visit much more than she had before, and Idunn promised the same.

Anna had nearly hit the end of her patience. She still needed to find a decent apartment, otherwise she'd run through her money and end up back in Boston, and she wasn't sure she could handle that right now. She pulled up the newest list on her phone, checking the next appointment. With little hope, she found the building and walked in.

The building impressed her at first, but she'd been through that before. The landlady was polite, but again, been there, done that. Anna followed her to the elevator, noting the nice condition of everything, including the laundry room. The elevator ride was swift, carrying them to the third floor. 319 proved to be a corner apartment, with a small balcony and plenty of sunlight. Better yet, it came already furnished.

It was a little more a month that she preferred, but she could live with it, as the apartment also included parking. She signed the lease happily and checked out of her hotel, eager to settle into her new home. She called Idunn, sharing the good news as well as plenty of pictures. Her mother was so happy for her and promised to visit as soon as she could.

Anna let her elated mood carry her through the next week. Her coworkers noticed her good mood and were happy for her. Ariel, the only other woman close to her own age in the art restoration department, dragged the happy news from her over lunch on Monday.

"... now I'm jealous!" The other redhead smiled at her over her sandwich. "If you ever want a roommate, I'd so move in with you."

"Did I mention the covered parking?" Anna winked at her.

"So jealous..." Ariel finished her sandwich. "Seriously Anna, I'm happy for you. It sounds fantastic, and I think you deserve a little fantastic in your life now."

"Thanks." Anna polised off her own sandwich. "How about you? Any 'fantastic' going on with you and Eric?"

"Ugh, I don't know how he can be so dense. I mean, it's not like I've been exactly suble about this whole thing. He needs to get with the program." The other redhead complained. "Trust me, I'm more than ready for some 'fantastic'."

"Men are idiots?" She shrugged at her friend. "What? Bitter divorcee here, I think I'm allowed to play that card for at least a year."

"Yeah, yeah, but you're still coming out with me this weekend to celebrate. And you're allowed to have a good time too." Ariel's tone brooked no argument.

"Okay, I give, I'll be there with you." Anna surrendered. "But same rules as last time, you try to set me up with anyone and I give your mom your new cell number."

"Mean." The other woman grinned.

"Just protecting myself. I don't want a repeat of the first time." She twirled one of her braids. "I'm not ready yet, Ari. I think... I think I need some time to learn about me, what I want, okay?"

"Yeah, I get that. I just don't want to see you shut yourself away, Anna. You're the only interesting thing at work anymore." Ariel smiled. "I want to see you happy."

"I am happy." Anna smiled sincerely. "I have a job I love, a great place to live, friends... for the first time in forever I'm free to be me, and it's pretty awesome."

"Fine, when you put it like that, it makes it really hard to try to mess with you." Ariel laughed softly. "I'll even cover lunch today, since I know you're pretty much broke from the security deposit. But don't think this means you get to weasel out of this weekend."

"I know better than that, Ari." She paused. "So what is the plan?"

"Local art faire. Tons of cheap stuff and new artists. Plus the usual 'horribly bad for you but tastes incredible' fair food, local bands, and I'm still trying to decide between a new tattoo or a new piercing." The other redhead grinned at Anna's perplexed expression. "Still not sure where."

"No." Anna stated, adamant.

"I didn't even ask you anything yet." Ariel complained.

"You want me to get something pierced or tattooed or... or... something! Not gonna happen." She clarified. "I'm so not interested in that at all."

"Hey, you're the one who wanted to embrace the new you and all."

"Embrace, not perforate."


"Look, I'll go with you, but that's it." Anna stood up. "It does sound like fun - the fair, not the getting a needle jabbed in you. I think I'm actually looking forward to this."

Anna followed Ariel into the park, a little overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the 'small local' faire. Clearly Ariel had different definitions of 'small' and 'local' than she did. The other redhead led them expertly through the crowd, heading for a stage near the river where a band was setting up. From what she could see, they wouldn't be ready soon, but Ariel appeared to want to get a good spot early.

"Tell me we're not just here for the free music." Anna asked when they finally stopped.

"That's just a perk - my friend Mulan's band is back in town and I want to catch her show. It's the first time she's been back in a while, so I don't wanna miss it." Ariel smiled as she kept her attention on the stage.

"Ah, that's cool." Anna gazed at the stage. "Is that her?"

"Yeah, she sings and her boyfriend plays the drums. Total cliche, but what can ya do?" She shrugged. "They're totally sappy together, but it's nice to see someone who's actually happily coupled up and all."

"Firework Dragon Explosion?" Anna squinted and read the name on the drum.

"Uh huh, apparently there was a lot of beer involved in that decision." Ariel made a face. "Beer and some leftover Mongolian food that had been sitting out a bit too long."

"Been there, done that." Anna shuddered dramatically as she remembered some of the more... colorful meals she'd had back in college. "So glad I can afford real food now."

"Amen, sister." The other redhead looked unusually thoughtful. "I get jealous of her sometimes, but I gotta say that mostly I'm just glad I don't live in a van for half the year. I think I'd go crazy if I had to."

"You? Go crazy? How would we even tell the difference?" Anna smirked.

"Shut it or you're not getting a ride to IKEA next weekend." Ariel threatened.

"You know I have my own car." She sulked.

"Yeah, but if you want to take advantage of my pickup..." Her friend grinned triumphantly as Anna's face fell.

"I'll be good." She surrendered.

The band started warming up, and the two women turned their attention to the stage. Anna, despite still a little irked at first that her friend had ambushed her with the concert, wound up enjoying the show far more than she expected. Mulan's band played a full hour and more, a mix of original songs and some covers. Ariel had to nudge her, laughing at how caught up in the show she got. The shorter girl led them back behind the stage to the makeshift dressing room. She knocked on the door and was greeted to a muffled 'Come in!'

Ariel barged in and introduced Anna to Mulan. She immediately liked the other girl, and soon found herself exchanging stories with her. After a while, Mulan's boyfriend Shang knocked and joined them too, and the four of them decided to get some lunch here at the faire before catching the afternoon show.

After lunch they split up for a little bit. Ariel wanted to call Eric - Anna still didn't know him all that well, but her friend apparently wanted to give him another chance and from what little she did know, the other redhead would be talking with him for quite a while. Meanwhile, Mulan and Shang were loading their guitars and other equipment back into their van. Anna had offered to help, but they'd declined, their looks making it clear that they wanted a little alone time. So Anna found herself wandering the aisles aimlessly while she waited for Ariel to get off the phone.

Several local stores had booths set up in this section, she saw. She browsed a few of them, not really finding anything she wanted for the apartment. She liked most of the furnishings, and the trip to IKEA should fill out the few gaps, but she wanted some more decoration. Something to really make the place hers. Something like...

Anna stopped in front of one of the booths, her gaze locked on an old oil painting resting forlornly on a stand in the rear corner. It was a winter landscape, all snow-covered trees and gently rolling hills of white. An iced over river snaked its way across one clearing while a tall mountain loomed in the distance. Dark clouds hung on the horizon, threatening to bring more snow.

The piece was untitled and no artist was listed. Anna couldn't place the style either. She walked over to the man running the booth. "Oh, that one? Not sure. It's been in the shop since my dad was in charge, and he never said where he got it. No one's ever bought it, though I still bring it with everything else."

"It's... I like it." Her attention returned to the old painting. "How much for it?"

"Dad never listed a price for it, but I'll say fifty. Nice to see someone interested in it for a change." He followed her gaze to where the painting rested. "Should I wrap it up for you?"

Anna gulped but ultimately nodded and dug out her cash. Fifty would pretty much wipe out what little money she had left until her next paycheck, but something about the piece drew her, and she knew she wanted it for her new home. She handed over the bills, already regretting her impulsive decision a little.

"What did you get?" Ariel's voice called her back from her musings.

"Oh hey, Ari." Anna pointed to the corner, where the owner. "I found one for my place."

Ariel took a closer look at the painting. "Kinda boring, don't ya think? And who's the artist? I don't think I can recognize the style."

"I like it." She replied. "It's... I dunno, it speaks to me."

"It's a bit dark, with the storm and all." Her friend shrugged. "But whatever, if it works for you, go for it. Better than having nothing to decorate with."

They got the painting back to Anna's car and met up with Mulan and Shang, and the four of them claimed a nice spot for the afternoon show. Anna was probably biased, but the rest of the bands weren't as good as her new friends, though they did have a good time anyway. When evening rolled around, Mulan and Shang split off to get dinner with the rest of their band. They promised to meet up with Anna and Ariel again tomorrow after their show.

Ariel went back with Anna, to help her get the painting safely up to her apartment and mount it. Anna finally settled on putting it on her bedroom wall after the other redhead got tired of holding it up in various spots for her to consider. Once she was satisfied, they ordered some pizza and hung out for a bit.

"Meet you tomorrow at nine?" Ariel asked her and she nodded.

"Yeah, sounds good." Anna confirmed. She waved goodbye to her friend and went back to her bedroom. She paused, looking at the painting again before changing into more comfortable clothes. After that, Anna decided to call her mother and update her on how the new apartment was going.

"... I just got a nice landscape painting for my bedroom and Ariel and I are going to IKEA next weekend to get a computer desk and maybe some other stuff, so yeah, this place is really starting to look great!"

"I'm glad everything is working out for you, Sunflower. It's really good to hear you happy again. It's been far too long." She could hear Idunn's smile. "Is it still okay for me to visit next month?"

"Of course, yeah!" Anna confirmed. "I can't wait to show you the place! And I gotta show you my new job and have you meet Ariel and -"

"Anna, Anna." Her mother laughed. "Chill. We have a month to plan everything out, we don't have to do it right now. Anyway, It's really late here, so why don't I call you later in the week? You can tell me about the rest of the art faire."

" 'Kay, sounds good." She held back a yawn of her own - it had been a long day and she'd gotten up extra early for the faire. "Take care, Mom, I love you."

"Love you too, Sunflower. Goodbye."

"Bye." They hung up and Anna plugged the phone into the charger. She took a quick shower and laid out everything for tomorrow. She looked out at the night sky from her balcony for a while then decided she really should get to bed. She pulled back the covers and crawled in after making sure her alarm was set.

Anna drifted off to sleep, warm and happy...

... and spat out a mouthful of snow as she turned her face, blinking at the sudden glint of the sun stabbing into her eyes. A cold wind bit into her, her pyjamas doing little to block it. She could already feel some water seeping through, soaking the clothes.

"What the hell?" Anna pushed herself up, her hands pressing into the snow. "I've gotta be dreaming or something."

She got to her feet, doing her best to ignore the chill sinking into her socks too. She looked around, not recognizing any of her surroundings at all. Tall evergreen trees covered in snow dominated the landscape. Unfamiliar mountains were visible over the tops of the trees, and they too were snowcapped. "Okay, points for realism, but I'm taking some off for 'what the hell?' "

The redhead could feel her toes already starting to get cold. She looked around again but couldn't spot a road or building or anything. Not even a stray electric line. "Right, so what now?"

The wind picked up, and Anna knew she couldn't stay here much longer without risking frostbite. Can I even get frostbite in a dream? No idea, but I'd rather not find out. She tried to find something, anything to orient herself, but with the sun overhead and no landmarks she could identify, she had no way to know where she was. I guess since I'm lost, one way is as good as another. Maybe if I run into something, this dream will start making sense. She picked the tallest of the mountains and started walking.

She felt a bit warmer as she walked but she knew that would only last so long. If she didn't find shelter soon, she'd be in real trouble. Or at least as much trouble as you can get into in a dream. Every time she reached a clearing, she checked for any sign of civilization, but she had no luck. When she tripped over yet another tree root, she decided enough was enough.

"Screw this." Anna growled. "Okay dream, I've had enough. I've played along so far, so let's get to the point already! Change or end or whatever!"

She waited impatiently for the dream to... do something, but nothing happened. The only change she noticed was that her toes were really, really cold. Like even colder than before. She sighed. This crazy-ass dream made no sense whatsoever.

It was only when the wind died down a little that she heard the faint crunch of the crust of snow breaking from somewhere behind her. Ohhhkay, when I said I wanted something to happen, I didn't mean something creepy. Anna hurried towards the nearest tree, putting its bulk between herself and the direction the sounds had come from. More crunches followed at a pace that was too deliberate to be anything other than someone or something hunting her.

"Vent, vennligst slutte å kjøre!" A man's voice called out from behind her.

Oh crap! Anna didn't understand what whoever it was that was chasing her said, but it was clear he knew she was here and was after her. This is like the start of every horror movie ever!

"Det skaern advarte meg at du're i fare. Jeg trenger å komme deg til henne før det's for sent." The voice was closer to her. Anna did her best to remain absolutely still. Her heart hammered in her chest as the footsteps drew near. "Vennligst, kommet ut. Vi trenger å få ut av skogen før mørket. Det's en storm som kommer."

A man in a fur coat stepped out from around the tree and Anna jumped. He held his hands out in an unthreatening gesture. She gulped and prepared to bolt, but he simply stood still, smiling at her. He looked to be in his fifties and had a warm presence about him. "Mitt navn er Kai." He thumped his chest. Then he set his pack on the ground and dug out a fur coat and some boots and held them out towards her "Min kone Gerda sendt meg å hjelpe deg. Hun sa du'd trenger disse."

"Kai?" Anna guessed from the gesture that he'd introduced himself. He nodded. She pointed at herself. "Anna." Another nod, along with a smile. "Are those for me?"

He didn't seem to understand her any better than she did him, but he held the coat out for her again. When she'd put on the coat and boots, he picked his pack up and slung it on his back. "Følg meg. Vi're ikke altfor langt fra hjemmet."

"Follow you?" He nodded. "Okay, I guess I don't really have a better option."

They set out, making much better time now that Anna had proper footwear as well as a guide. Kai led them through the woods, and soon she found herself on a worn trail leading towards one of the nearby hills. After about an hour, they emerged from the woods on the edge of a small clearing. A large, well-maintained wooden house dominated one side of the space. A second building - probably a barn, Anna guessed - was next to it.

A woman who looked to be about the same age as Kai was waiting in front of the door of the house. She smiled at the sight of them and strode out to embrace Kai. I guess that's his wife. The woman turned her attention to Anna, her smile fading as she examined the redhead. She frowned and turned back to Kai. "Dette er ikke bra. Jeg'm ikke sikker på at hun kan hjelpe oss."

"Jeg gikk til der du fortalte meg til. Hun var akkurat der du sa hun'd være." Kai replied.

"Um... is something wrong?" Anna spoke up, earning herself a frown.

The old woman sighed at the interruption and kept talking to her husband. "Denne stav var vår siste, beste håp. Fimbulvetr kommer. Dette... jente er ikke sterk nok til å håndtere det."

"Du alltid fortelle meg at det er andre styrker utover ferdigheter på armene. Hvis hun er hva vi har å jobbe med, vi'll har bare å trene henne." Kai pointed at Anna.

"Jeg liker ikke dette, men du're høyre." The old woman faced Anna and bowed stiffly. "Jeg er Gerda, en sjaman. Jeg ønsker deg velkommen til mitt hjem."

"Uh, I'm Anna." She did her best to return the bow, aware that she probably wasn't doing it right.

"Kommer i, er det mye å gjøre og altfor lite tid." Gerda opened the door and entered the hut, and Kai gestured for Anna to follow. Once inside, out of the cold, Anna breathed a sigh of relief. A cheery fire danced in the stone fireplace along the back wall. A pot bubbled over the fire, and the aroma wafting from it smelled delicious. Anna's stomach growled, reminding her that she'd been stuck in this damn dream for hours now.

I don't remember ever getting hungry in a dream before. Anna frowned. Nothing in this dream made any sense. It was at once both the most realistic and weirdest dream she'd had. Not to mention, she didn't seem to be waking up...

"Can one of you two please explain what the hell is going on?" She asked plaintively.

Gerda ignored her question, busying herself at a shelf that was full of bottles of various sizes. She picked several and brought them to a small table next to the fireplace. She started mixing them in a bowl. Kai led Anna to a larger table on the other side of the fire and fetched her a bowl of stew from the cooking pot. Anna sniffed it. Venison? She shrugged. Why not? It made as much sense as anything else in this crazy dream.

She sighed happily at the first bite. It was delicious and filling. It wasn't long before the bowl was empty and she was wanting more. By that time, Gerda had finished with whatever she was working on and walked over towards Anna. She held out a small cup that was filled with a dark green liquid that smelled bitter. Anna recoiled. "No thanks, I'm not thirsty."

"Drikke." The old woman told her.

"Fine, whatever." Anna shrugged. At least something is finally happening in this damn dream, so why not? She raised the cup to her lips and took a sip. She choked and slammed the cup down on the table, the majority of the liquid still in it. "Ugh, nasty! I'm not drinking that!"

"Drikke det alle. Du trenger en anchor slik at du kan komme tilbake hit." Gerda replied firmly. The look she gave Anna was the same as the one her mother used to give her when she was young and didn't want to take her medicine.

Anna sighed and screwed up her courage, downing the concoction in one quick gulp. Drinking it quickly didn't help that much. A bitter aftertaste left her spooning the last drops of the stew from the bowl so she could get rid of the taste. "What was that for?"

Gerda was still in front of her, and Anna noticed the old woman was chanting in a different language than the one she'd spoken earlier. She took a slim, ornate bracelet off her wrist and slid it onto Anna's. Once that was done, she placed her hands on Anna's temples, staring into her eyes -

Anna jerked awake.

For a while, she merely lay there, tangled up in the sheets, her heart beating rapidly and her breathing short and shallow. What the hell was with that dream? At the end there, that weird woman was chanting and then... Anna rubbed her temples, still feeling some pain from where the woman held her head, even though she was awake now. It had been brief, but just before she woke up, a searing flash of pain had shot through her head, starting from where Gerda held her. Like the worst headache ever.

Anna moaned and sat up, making a beeline for the bathroom and her asprin. It helped some, but she soon found herself back in bed. At least she didn't have to work today. All she wanted to do was lay here and relax until she felt better. She crawled under the sheets, hugging herself as she tried to get comfortable.

Her eyes popped open as something cool and metallic brushed across her skin when she crossed her arms. She held up her left arm, staring at the slim gold bracelet adorning her wrist. The same bracelet as from her dream, a bracelet she'd never seen before then.

"What the hell?"

Next Chapter: Anna gets some answers, even if they don't make much sense to her.

A/N 4: I've been working on this one for a while now, and finally got around to finishing the first chapter. I'll be starting on 2 soon enough.

A/N 5: Possible spoilers for later: (small) Spoiler warning!

For those who are curious, here's a rough translation of what Kai and Gerda said.

Kai - Wait, please stop running!

Kai - The shaman warned me that you're in danger. I need to bring you to her before it's too late.

Kai - Please, come out. We need to get out of the woods before dark. There's a storm coming.

Kai - My name is Kai. My wife Gerda sent me to help you. She said you'd need these.

Kai - Follow me. We're not too far from home.

Gerda - This is not good. I'm not sure she can help us.

Kai - I went to where you told me to. She was right where you said she'd be.

Gerda - This spell was our last, best hope. Fimbulwinter is coming. This... girl is not strong enough to deal with it.

Kai - You always tell me that there are other strengths beyond skill at arms. If she is what we have to work with, we'll just have to train her.

Gerda - I don't like this, but you're right. I am Gerda, a shaman. I welcome you to my home.

Gerda - Come in, there is much to do and far too little time.

Gerda - Drink.

Gerda - Drink it all. You need an anchor so you can return here.

Also, I'm aware that the translation isn't the best, but it's the best I could do at the moment. If anyone is interested in helping, please PM me!