Duke Galen of Weselton pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve. He made a show of covering his mouth and nose with the cloth. Before him a farmer droned on about drought, poor crops, little money for taxes, blah, blah, blah. Galen caught about every other word. It was just more of the dribble he'd been forced to endure since Hofer signaled the opening of court.
Where was Hofer? It was bad enough he allowed the local rift raft in, but he could have had the decency to weed out the foul smelling ones. He pressed the cloth tighter to his nose as a breeze from the open doors carried a hint of manure. His eyes shifted to the man's mud stained boots. He could only imagine what filth clung to them. That does it, from now on all farmers will be required to remove their shoes before entering the throne room. His eyes swept over the room searching for the missing Chamberlain. Where is that fool?
The man in question stepped into view from the main entrance. A distinguished looking man in a naval uniform came to attention at the chamberlain's side.
"Enough." Galen cut off the farmer, who had dropped to his knees to beg for an extension on the tax deadline. "Pay what you have, the rest will be taken in land payment."
"But, Your Grace, I can't afford to lose any more land."
"It would seem you can't afford to keep it either." With a nod of his head, two guards stepped up and drug the sobbing man away.
The Chamberlain stepped forward. "Your Grace, Admiral Schneider."
With practiced ease, the officer tucked his hat under his arm, stepped up, and bowed. "Your Grace."
"Admiral Schneider, I was not expecting to see you so soon. I thought you were patrolling the shipping lanes."
"The main fleet is patrolling, Your Grace. But I received a…disturbing report. I felt it warranted my personal attention."
"What has you disturbed, Admiral?" He relaxed back into the throne.
"There are rumors, Your Grace, Weselton ships attacked and sunk an Arendelle fishing fleet."
"They are not rumors, Admiral. Rear Admiral Aigner, led the attack under my orders. It was a success. We sank all but a couple of boats, and took at least a dozen prisoners."
Schneider stared at the little man reclining in the over-sized throne. Years of military training kept him from cursing aloud. "Your Grace, such an attack will be seen as an act of war."
Galen waved him off. "Poppycock, we've been engaging Arendelle ships for nearly a month. Queen Elsa will do what she always does, send a messenger with a stern warning to cease or face retaliation."
"With all due respect, Your Grace, this is an inexcusable offense. It is one thing to engage and harass Naval vessels and merchant ships. But to attack unarmed fishermen cannot be justified."
The Duke grabbed the armrests and leaned forward to glare at the man. "Cannot be justified? Since that witch took the throne we've lost a fortune in trade. It's bad enough she canceled all contracts with our kingdom, but she has managed to steal away trade from other nations. Trade that has supported Weselton for generations."
"Your Grace, even without Queen Elsa's…powers, we are no match for Arendelle's navy. Do not underestimate the people of Arendelle. They are not quick to fight, but once provoked they are a force to be reckoned with. Their ancestor's blood runs strong in their veins."
"Bah," Galen threw up a dismissive hand, and settled back. "You worry too much, Admiral. It has been many generations since Vikings ruled Arendelle. Queen Elsa has proven she has no stomach for battle. For all her bravo, she's just a little girl playing queen. She'll rant and cry foul, but in the end she'll cave to my demands. As for her fleet, they'll be no match for us once our allies come to our aid."
"But will they come, My Grace. There are rumblings among our allies. They feel you've crossed a line with the Queen. You may not fear her powers, but they do. Don't be so sure they will rush to our aid. "
"Wait!" The Chamberlain cried in vain as a slender man rushed past him at the door.
In spite of his advanced years the man crossed the room in several quick strides. "Your Grace, a word please." The man bowed as he reached the Admiral's side.
"Ah, perfect timing, Ambassador Eder. Did you meet with Queen Elsa?"
"I did, Your Grace." He crumpled the brim of the hat in his hands. His cheeks were pale and sunken.
"So what stern words did the Snow Queen send this time?"
The man motioned to the door, and two guards carried in a crate. They sat it before the throne.
"What is this?" Galen came to his feet.
"It is Queen Elsa's response to the attack, Your Grace."
"What's in it?"
"I think it best you see for yourself, Your Grace."
With their bayonets the guards pried the lid off.
Galen stepped up to stare at the contents. His mustache drooped low, giving him the appearance of an angry walrus. He reached in and lifted out a long, thick, pale blond braid. Light sparkled off the ice snowflakes adorning it. From top to bottom a blue ribbon was woven throughout it.
The Admiral pulled out two coppered colored braids. He reached in and began removing handfuls of braids. "Is that the Queen's hair?"
"Yes, sir. I watched her cut it off with an ice knife, she created out of thin air."
Schneider dropped the braids with a low curse.
Galen tossed the braid into the crate. "What is the meaning of this? Did you deliver my demands?"
"Yes, Your Grace."
"And what was her response?"
"She said, you have one week to get your affairs in order, while Arendelle mourns it's dead."
"A week?" He chuckled. "And what does she plan to do after she finishes mourning?"
The man swallowed hard, growing a shade paler. "She's coming to reclaim her hair ribbon."
*Author's note - This tale was inspired by a Tumblr thread Sonatagreen started entitled A Tradition. The tradition being a ruler cuts off their hair to signal the start of a war. I had this image of Elsa slicing off her braid as a signal to her enemies, that they had crossed an unforgivable line.