Anna had always grown up loving exploration.
After Elsa had closed herself off, the younger royal often found herself in the library with the intention to pass off time.
The rows and rows of books that held knowledge of the unknown had called upon her attention. And with her curiosity piqued, the young redhead had spent hours with her nose stuck in journal entries and accounts of explorers who had published the maps of their modern-day world.
It had filled Anna with excitement, and by habit she had shared her newfound stories with Elsa outside of the blonde's room.
It was a childhood fantasy of hers, to one day whisk Elsa off and take her on a journey across the world.
But today proved sadly, that such a feat may not be entirely suited for her.
For one, she was terrible at planning.
The redhead had been invigorated, determined to reach Northuldra at the earliest convenience. She had mapped out her route, referencing both her memory and documents from the library for her journey. Additionally, she had packed food for one full day of travel, accounting for the time it had taken on her first trip there six months ago.
The queen had been on good track, making reasonable distance for time, and she had even let herself feel proud for her uncharacteristic level of preparation.
But of course, her curse of celebrating too soon quickly made its way before her.
She had not accounted for the possibility of adverse weather conditions.
It was winter, lone blizzards were not out of the ordinary.
And now the redhead found herself trudging painfully slow through thick snow, forced to guide her horse, who she had decided to name as 'Snowball', through the blinding wind.
Her steed was tired, moving increasingly more sluggish as time went on.
That was another thing she had failed to account for.
Horses weren't reindeer, the latter species notorious for longer distances of travel in the winter.
She could have easily brought Sven with her.
No wonder Elsa had left.
She was ignorant, still the same clueless girl who had jeopardized the kingdom by marrying a psychopathic prince she had just met.
The cold wind batted her face in a way that seemed to agree with her diffidence.
Even now she still didn't fully understand her sister.
She knew that her engagement with Kristoff was bound to have some changes..
But Anna had not put enough thought into it, and naivety had once again brought her consequences.
The way Elsa had looked so pained…
So desperate to be away from her...
It felt like the rift between them was unbearably wide once again.
The frustrating sight of the shut doors had made its way back and Anna felt the familiar grip of loneliness claw at her heart.
She had worked so hard to climb the walls of the past, and was finally able to reach the truth regarding their childhood separation.
And yet, even after all this time...nothing had changed.
They were still separated.
Anna couldn't help but be afraid, afraid that this journey would once again lead to another date with Elsa's door.
Not paying attention to the terrain in front of her, the redhead lost her footing, and Anna fell face first into the snow.
She laid there, unmoving.
But she wanted that.
Wanted the cold to rile her senses.
It was the shock that she needed to wake herself up from this persistent feeling of doubt.
She couldn't stop here.
She needed answers.
She owed it to Kristoff at the very least.
She owed it to herself.
For pretending for so long that she was okay with this.
The redhead stood and brushed the snow off her body.
She closed her eyes.
And imagined that the storm before her was the result of Elsa's powers.
It spurred her on.
Knowing that at the center of the storm would be her sister.
Her sister who had hid her secrets.
Her sister who had pushed her away.
Her sister who had ran away from home.
From their home.
She would find her.
And bring her back.
And this time...it would be different.
Anna would make sure of that.
Shaking away the last shred of doubt, the queen reached for her horse's reins and pushed onward through the storm.
I'm coming, Elsa..
Northuldra was beautiful.
Though her body was numb from exhaustion, Anna couldn't help but admire the ethereal presence that laid before her.
As the redhead had gotten closer and closer to her destination, the blizzard had weakened, and the sight of the enchanted forest had become as clear as day.
It was as beautiful as she remembered when she had left six months ago.
The birds of daytime seemed to welcome her arrival, as they chirped and tweeted, and the forest came alive with all kinds of soothing sounds that she rarely heard in her time at the castle.
In Arendelle, the square bustled with activity; but here, the whole forest seemed to hum with music.
After so many hours of plodding through thick snowfall and ushering her horse over gnarled roots and rocks, navigating the forest in the presence of morning light proved to be much easier for the redhead. She found she could finally breathe deeply without her lungs freezing.
In fact, she felt warm now. A little bit too warm, considering the temperature around her was still quite cold.
Anna rode Snowball parallel to a frozen stream that cut through the center of the forest, and soon she could make out the appearance of smoke in the distance.
That must be where the camp is.
A few more minutes of riding and Anna had arrived at the source of the smoke. As her horse paced to the center of the campsite, a few figures exited their tents at her arrival.
It was early in the morning, and she hadn't expected there to be much company, but one by one, the Northuldran made their way out of their homes and began whispering amongst each other.
"A visitor?" One asked.
"It's the queen!" Another recognized.
"The sister of the fifth spirit.."
All the eyes on her were beginning to make her feel uncomfortable. This wasn't Arendelle, where the respect of the citizens was preemptively granted for her. By blood she was technically half Northuldran. But it had been six months since she was last here. It was quite likely that her actions to successfully free the forest had been long but forgotten.
She was saved from her turmoil when a familiar face made its way through the center of the crowd.
"I was wondering when you would finally decide to visit...your majesty." The woman added the last part with a smirk.
She still had that look that was filled with wisdom to add to her aged features.
In a way it reminded her a lot of Pabbie.
Anna chuckled nervously as she unmounted from Snowball.
"I'm sorry. I've been very busy with...things, and I apologize if I'm intruding."
The Northuldran leader walked to stand in front of her, and placed the queen's hands over her own.
"You are one of us dear, and you're more than welcome to stay here."
Anna smiled appreciatively.
Yelena then turned to the rest of the tribe.
"You here that all of you, the queen is to be treated as one of us! I expect all of you to help tend to her needs, and if I catch even one of you slacking to do so, I will make it my personal responsibility to put you on laundry duty for the rest of the month."
The redhead blushed at the doting.
Despite the foreboding threat left by the tribe elder, the group of Northuldran began cheering and applauding for the queen. Several of them approached her now, and soon Anna found herself bombarded with conversation from many different people of many different ages.
The queen was forced to follow the crowd as they walked among the different homes. She was introduced to the families of the homes, all the while being demonstrated to the various customs and cultural activities of the tribe.
It had been merely half an hour, but the redhead felt dizzy from the tour, and after turning down the tribe's offer to attend their morning hunt, Anna was finally able to escape the attention and make her way to Yelena's tent.
"You could've warned me if you were just going to leave me to die out there." Anna joked as she opened the flap of the tent.
Yelena smiled and waved her off. "They're just excited to have a visitor for once. Besides, a little cultural background never harmed anyone."
Anna noticed then, that Yelena wasn't the only one present in the tent.
Another familiar face, though this one had significantly younger features.
Anna jogged her memory and was able to remember a name.
"Honey..maren was it?"
The young brunette looked impressed. "Wow, most people have trouble remembering my name. But I guess that's not much trouble for you, considering all the names you have to go through being queen."
Anna rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "Oh please, I'm nowhere near as proficient at it as Elsa is."
At the mention of her sister's name, the two Northuldran's expressions sullened.
She had thought that she might see Elsa when she had first arrived at the campsite, but the blonde was not present amongst the mass of Northuldran people earlier.
Anna took a deep breath before asking the important question.
None of them answered immediately.
A few more moments passed and Yelena sighed, looking at her with weary eyes.
"She has locked herself deep within the forest. It has been two months, and she refuses to live amongst our people."
"We try to reach out to her, but even if we do manage to find her out there, she doesn't leave the ice cottage that she's built." Honeymaren added on.
The young Northuldran's words caught Anna's attention.
"What do you mean 'find her'?"
Yelena and Honeymaren looked at each other, and the latter nodded for the tribe elder to explain.
"We have only visited her three times, two of which were in the first month, but each time her cottage ends up being in a different location. From our few conversations we've had with her, she does not seem to be aware of it. We suspect that her state of mind is connected to the forest, and is altering the landscape subconsciously so that she isn't disturbed."
Anna's mind reeled back at Yelena's explanation.
Was her sister really that distraught for her magic to affect the landscape?
Because of her...?
"We tried to look for her again, but in the past two weeks...we haven't been able to find her." Honeymaren finished sadly.
A heavy silence fell over the three women.
It was improbable now.
Elsa didn't want to see anyone.
And if these two weren't able to find her…
What hopes would she have at trying?
What If Elsa stayed lost out there…
Anna stood suddenly, breaking the silence.
"I will find her."
Yelena shook her head. "It's futile, child. You will only get lost out there if you try."
"I'll feel more lost, if I just stand here and wait for her." Anna countered.
"My grandmother is right, Anna. Unless you know someone who knows her precise location you won't be able to find her." Honeymaren reasoned.
Anna grinned, an idea popping into her mind.
"Then it's a good thing I know someone who might."
Anna was very sure that this would not work.
But it was worth a shot.
It had been awhile since she last saw him, though.
The redhead wasn't too fond of the spirits. After all, most of them had tried to kill her.
But one of them...she had a connection with.
She had never understood why, but he seemed particularly affectionate towards her.
He had personally helped her send letters to Elsa when the two sisters were still on speaking terms.
And now that Elsa was out in the forest for god knows where.
Anna needed him more than ever.
Where are you..?
Anna closed her eyes shut and attempted to use her presence to beckon the spirit.
This was silly.
She wasn't Elsa, she had no experience with the ways of magic.
And the redhead most certainly did not speak wind.
Anna was about to give up when suddenly, a blinding light flashed through her mind.
A scene played out before her as if she was watching the events of someone else's life.
She was in the enchanted forest.
A young girl with flowing brown hair was holding the unconscious form of a blonde boy. He was injured, and the trees around them were ablaze with fiery purple flames. The eyes of the girl were flashing with panic, desperate to get the boy in her arms to safety.
Anna pieced the scene together as she realized who the two young people were.
Iduun inhaled and then let loose a powerful melody from her voice.
Nothing seemed to happen.
But out of nowhere, a gust of wind fell from above and enveloped the pair.
The wind spirit carried the two away from the destructive scene and deposited them in a lone carriage away from the calamity.
Iduun reached out and hugged the form of air, thanking the kindred spirit for his help.
And with a heavy heart, watched as the fellow spirit flew back into the fiery ruins of the forest.
The scene faded, and Anna was back at the center of the campsite.
"Gale and mother...were friends."
With her newfound knowledge, the redhead opened her lips and sung the melody she had just heard from the memory.
It was painful for her to admit, but she was starting to forget what she sounded like.
She imagined her mother's voice.
All the times she had read bedtime stories to her and Elsa.
Scolded her for eating too much chocolate.
Comforted her when she had missed her older sister.
And so warm.
Anna tried to imitate it all.
Surely, the spirits could hear her past her tears.
A minute passed, and Anna once again started to doubt.
There was a reason the spirits had chosen Elsa over her.
She was powerless.
Powerless when it mattered the most.
With that thought, Anna felt her focus slip away, and the redhead stopped singing.
But just like from her mother's memory, out of nowhere, a gust of air descended from the sky and enveloped the redhead like a hug made of wind.
Anna laughed joyfully, eyes still filled with tears as she was carried from the ground.
"Hey Gale! Long time no see!"
Yelena and Honeymared stared with their mouths agape. It was no surprise that Elsa would be able to pull this off, but for both the sisters to have an affinity with the spirits, the two Northuldran couldn't help but look flabbergasted.
The wind spirit playfully tossed the redhead around, Anna giggling like a child at his antics.
The pair settled down, and Anna smiled at her magical friend.
"Gale, I need your help."
The wind spirit had no physical form, but Anna could almost imagine him tilting his head in question.
"Can you take me to Elsa?"
Gale whistled brightly which Anna took as an affirmative.
And just like with Idunn from the many years past, Gale took to the sky, carrying the redhead to the residence of the fifth spirit.
Gale deposited Anna at the edge of a wide clearing.
At the center stood a lone structure, a single story house.
It really is a cottage made of ice...
Anna wondered if Elsa ever considered being an architect.
It didn't speak as grand of a volume as her ice palace, but the details of the lodge in front of her displayed an artistry that could only be conveyed through its lack in size.
The specific etches of snowflakes in the exterior design showed that the former queen had put an incredible amount of thought into the look.
They never ceased to take her breath away.
Every one of Elsa's creations.
But no matter how many times Anna looked at it, the cottage just seemed...sad.
The small spires at the top appeared to resemble the larger ones on the castle back at home to compensate for...something.
Anna turned to look at the fellow spirit beside her.
"Thank you, Gale, I'll be fine now. I'll see you soon okay?"
The wind spirit whistled one last time before leaping away into the sky.
And with that, Anna made her way to the front door of the lodge.
She stood there.
Stared at the door.
Figuratively or literally, she was always staring at doors.
And the person behind them was always the same.
Hands raised to knock, Anna felt lightheaded.
She was shaking.
Just like how she had felt in front of the doors of Elsa's ice palace three years ago, all the times where her knocks had been turned down had left a negative stimulus in the redhead's conscience.
She dreaded this action.
Because it always led to that terrible feeling of rejection afterward.
Anna slapped her cheeks to snap out of her bleak train of thought.
If Elsa didn't open the door, then she would just have to break through the windows.
It was that simple.
Anna would see her sister if it was the last thing she did.
With her doubts now pushed aside, the queen knocked forcefully on the door.
Ten seconds felt like an eternity.
And when the blonde finally showed up to the door, time froze like the icicles hanging from the sill.
Two months may as well have been a lifetime for the redhead.
Her eyes were red, swollen and baggy, evidence of tears and lack of sleep maring her usual radiance. Her hair was dirty and matted, blonde locks dangling at different lengths around her shoulders.
Anna's heart lept in her throat.
Even in the horrible state that she was in, Elsa was still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
And that notion terrified her.
Gone was all the confidence that she had built up for herself in the days leading up to this moment. Staring into the shocked and scrutinizing eyes of her sister, Anna was reduced to the same frightened girl from the years after her parents' death, reaching out for the love and attention from the only remaining family member still breathing in her world.
Every night away from the blonde she had dreamt of her.
Every hour of daylight she had thought of her.
And hearing her voice again for the first time in two months.
Anna felt herself tip towards the edge of breaking.
She couldn't speak.
She could only feel.
And Anna could feel herself beginning to cry.
Elsa must've noticed the tears beginning to form because the blonde suddenly reached out in worry.
"Anna? What's wrong? Are you hurt? Is everything okay?"
Upon hearing those words, the redhead broke.
The overwhelming dam that she hadn't realized she'd been holding in, collapsed and brought forth a wave of raw emotion.
Elsa still cared.
Elsa still cared about her.
And as long as she had that, she would face whatever life threw at her next.
Anna rushed forward and buried herself in the embrace of her sister. Sobs racking heavily through her body, as she emptied all of the pent up emotions into Elsa's chest.
Elsa slowly but surely brought her arms around her and began to rub soothing circles on her back.
"It's okay Anna. I'm here." Elsa soothed, running a hand gently through Anna's auburn hair.
The action brought forth a fresh wave of tears as she then buried her face into the crook of Elsa's neck. Her nails dug painfully into Elsa's back, holding her for dear life. She cried into soft platinum blonde locks, wrapping her arms tightly around Elsa's waist.
It felt like an eternity passed before her cries died out. Anna wasn't sure exactly how long it had taken for the tears to stop, but the feeling of being enveloped in Elsa's arms was something she could easily get used to for the rest of her life.
Reluctantly, Anna untangled herself and took a step back to look at Elsa.
"Kristoff and I broke up." Anna said weakly.
Elsa's eyes widened at the unexpected news.
Anna looked away in shame. "Kristoff deserves someone better. We were both hurting...and it was about time that we called it off..."
Anna sighed and then continued.
"I...was stupid. I rush into things without thinking about it...and.."
Anna looked up and was shocked to see fear in Elsa's eyes.
Elsa was backing away from her.
"This is my fault...isn't it...?" The blonde said shakily, voice so insecure that Anna thought she might actually physically break.
"No! Elsa stop, it wasn't your fault!"
"How could it not be my fault! Everytime you suffer it's always because of me!"
She was losing her. Elsa wrapped her arms around her middle in that posture she always made when she was scared.
Just like from her coronation.
Just like when she had ran away two months ago.
Elsa was always bound by these chains. Even after all the time that had passed, the blonde still couldn't escape them.
Anna hated them. Hated those chains. Hated that posture.
Most of all she hated herself.
For not being able to free her from them...
"Please leave Anna...go home." Elsa pleaded.
Anna shook her head frantically.
"Stop Elsa! Don't do this again!"
The blonde began retreating back behind the door.
"I don't want to hurt you…"
That stupid damn door.
She refused to look at it.
She refused to live another second behind a stupid piece of wood.
With conviction coursing through her, the redhead finally snapped.
"CAN YOU STOP BLAMING YOURSELF FOR JUST ONE SECOND!"
Anna never yelled at Elsa.
They had fights, disagreements, but the redhead made sure to never take it too far.
But if that was what it took to stop this, this..endless cycle of hurt.
Anna would wear out her vocal chords for as long as she needed to.
Her outburst was enough to get Elsa to stop and stare at her in shock.
She had Elsa's attention, but Anna wasn't sure what to say next.
She was out of options.
She had no speech prepared.
She was again reminded of how terrible she was at planning.
Terrible at vocalizing her thoughts, especially when her mind was blank as it was now.
So Anna did the one thing she knew how to do.
Listen to her heart.
The blonde perked up shyly, and that was enough of an acknowledgement for Anna to reach out for her sister's hands.
Elsa tried to avoid her grasp.
Not this time.
Anna shot out and grabbed Elsa's hands, quickly but gently prying her sister's shut-tight fists open, and running soothing circles through her palms like the blonde had done for her all those times.
"Elsa." Anna said firmly.
This time the blonde met her gaze. She was still shaking, but Anna was determined to not let her go.
With a deep breath, Anna closed her eyes.
Listen to the heart.
"I love you, Elsa."
"I know I've said it so many times, but I don't think I've ever asked myself what it means to love."
"So I'm going to ask myself right now, and answer with everything that I am."
"I love you, Elsa."
"I love your touch, the way your hands feel in mine. Gentle, and always trying to make sure I'm comfortable."
"I love the way your eyes look, always sparkling with kindness and love for the people around you. How within that kindness, a good fraction of it, is always reserved for me."
"I love your hair, how smooth it feels when I run my hands through it. The way it sparkles in the light like an aurora in the night sky."
"I love the way your body looks. How soft your skin is, and the perfect curves that your dresses manage to define so wonderfully."
"I love your lips. So delicate and pretty, that...I can't help but wonder how they would feel against my own.'
"And above all, even with everything that we've been through, even after everything that I've just said, I love how that no matter what.."
"You'll always be my sister. My sister who loves me, who protects me, and will never let go of me no matter how much it hurts her. Ever since I can remember, you were there. Always there. You were the light to the darkness around me, and no matter what happens, I know that when I'm with you...I'm happy."
"I love you, Elsa. I love everything about you. The good and the bad, and nothing will change that. I want...I want us to be together. To experience all of the wonderful things in life."
"I want no one else there beside me...except you."
Anna's heart was racing.
She felt feverish.
She had expected to feel more relieved.
But she was still tense.
After all, she had closed her eyes the entire time.
Slowly, she opened her eyes to look at her sister.
Anna's heart dropped at the sight before her.
Elsa's face was morphed with shock, mouth agape with disbelief at her confession.
Anna was hit with panic as she realized what she had just done.
She had professed her love to her sister.
Not sisterly love.
She said she wanted to kiss Elsa!
Horror dawned on Anna, and this time it was the redhead retreating from the situation in front of her.
Of course she wouldn't feel the same way..
How could I be so stupid…
Anna felt tears fall from her face as she turned to run away.
I'm sorry, Elsa.
But the redhead was stopped as a pair of strong hands gripped her forearms.
And without a second to recover.
Anna felt the sensation of soft, warm lips pressed against her own.
A/N: Hey y'all! Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter!
Yes, I know you guys probably hate me for stopping there, but just be patient! Next chapter will be out soon enough.
Also, Gale technically doesn't have a gender but I just felt so irritated at using the pronoun 'it' all the time, so we're just gonna make him a dude :)
Thanks again for reading, and I'll try to put out chapter 4 sometime next Saturday.
Until next time!