Anna was ice cold in my arms. (Actually, she felt around normal temperature to me, but that's when I knew that something bad was going on.) She was shivering like crazy, and the longer I held her, the worse it seemed to get. I was physically incapable of keeping anyone warm. I flew through the halls as fast as possible until I finally reached the den, where I set her gently on the couch. Rapunzel raced in a few seconds later followed by Gerda, who carried blankets and hot soup. I had to stand back and watch as she bundled Anna up and set the soup by her side. Rapunzel dismissed her, and as she left, a young man entered. I recognized him as the one Anna had run off with.
I gripped my staff angrily, making myself wait to give him a piece of my mind. Rapunzel needed to handle this situation, so I resigned myself to glowering in the corner at him while he shed his gloves, hat, and boots and took a seat by the fire to warm up. Both he and I watched intently as Rapunzel got to work, removing Anna's cloak, boots, and gloves and wrapping her in her hair. Then, she sang, her voice pure and strong, willing her daughter to be alright. Watching her hair pulse with warm magic while she sang was always beautiful. The healing light always seemed to spread to me, too, assuring me that everything was okay, no matter how dire the situation. A breathed a sigh of relief as Anna smiled at the comfort sometime towards the end of the song. The boy did the same while at the same time, looking dumbfounded at the sight of Rapunzel's magic.
Anna's hair did not return to its natural color, but I had expected that. It hadn't before. I wondered how okay she would be with having her hair mostly white. Something told me she would not take that very well. Rapunzel removed her hair and smiled down at her exhausted daughter, whose smile disappeared only a moment later as yet another great shudder shook her entire body, and she appeared to be unconscious for a few moments before fighting her way back to wakefulness. "Anna!" the three of us cried in horror.
"It didn't work," Rapunzel said, panic creeping into her tone. "But how?"
I flew over and placed a hand on my wife's shoulder, trying to calm her down for the moment. "Anna, you need to tell us everything that happened. What did Elsa do to you?"
Anna sucked in a painful breath and explained in a shaky, quiet voice, "I a-apologized t-t-to her f-for pushing her t-too far, b-b-but I pushed her too far a-again, a-and she hit me right h-here." An unsteady finger made a cross over her heart before the whole arm fell limply across her body. She was so tired, and there were no words to describe how proud I was that she was trying to be strong through this.
"She froze your heart?"
Anna simply nodded, still trying to catch her breath after speaking. Just that one motion seemed to be excruciating, and her face twisting in pain was enough to make anyone cry. I noticed the ice salesman turning his head away, wincing for her.
"Let me try," I told Rapunzel. She nodded and backed away from the couch. "This might hurt. I'm not quite sure," I warned Anna. I had cleaned up Elsa's ice thousands of times, but I had never tried to remove it from a person, and I hated that the person had to be my other daughter. There was no telling what might happen, but I knew what would happen if I didn't do anything, so gently, I brought the end of my staff to her heart. I felt Elsa's magic there, but it was different this time, stronger. As I pushed to remove it, the magic pushed back, and it was winning. It fought against my magic and eventually took over, traveling up from where my staff touched Anna to me. The next thing I knew, I was collapsed against the far wall, hearing Rapunzel scream my name but not quite seeing her, flash-blinded by a bright blue light. My staff lay abandoned by Anna, having been knocked from my grasp by the force of Elsa's magic running up through it.
The first thing I did was scramble to it. The staff was very much a part of me, a way to focus and wield my magic. Without it, my power appeared to be significantly weaker and random. I couldn't afford to lose any kind of control at the moment. Next, I turned my attention to poor Anna, who was gasping for breath and stiffly writhing in agony. I felt so stupid. I shouldn't have done that. What was I thinking? I was thinking of my daughter, but all I had done was put her in more pain.
I tried reaching out to her, but she shivered at my touch, and I hastily drew my hand back. After a long minute, the pain seemed to subside, and Anna curled up in the covers, trying to warm herself further. The ice salesman was looking around wildly. While he had been impressed by Rapunzel's magic, he was completely at a loss for words at what had just happened. (To be honest, so was I.) "What the heck?" he shouted, and I felt the urge to freeze his mouth shut for being so loud. There were people sleeping, there was no way to tell who might be listening, and I was just so on edge that anything he said or did really bothered me right then.
I figured that the odds were that he couldn't see or hear me, so I turned to Rapunzel, who was wondering the exact same thing. "Are you alright?" were the first words out of her mouth. I almost wanted to laugh.
"I'm fine," I assured her.
"What happened? Is she-?"
"I couldn't remove the ice. It's different this time. Elsa's magic fought back. It was more like a curse, and it's freezing Anna from the inside out." I could see the fear growing in Rapunzel's eyes as I spoke, and I wondered if that same fear was reflected in mine.
"What do we do?" she asked frantically.
"I don't know," I admitted, my heart sinking lower with each word. "I'll fly over to the library and try to see if there might be some other solution. You stay here and use your magic. It might not be able to stop the ice from spreading, but it'll slow the magic down."
I started on my way, but a few words from Rapunzel made me pause. "We need Elsa to come back, don't we?"
"Right now, I'm afraid so." I left then, but as I squeezed through the crack in the door - we had to leave it open on account of Rapunzel's hair flowing out behind her - I noticed quite a few more people looking in than I would expect. I floated there and watched as a few left the group and others joined, having followed the trail of hair to her location. I followed the few that had run back and quickly realized that they were heading towards the ballroom. I dashed on ahead and saw - who else? - the Duke of Weasel-town rallying a large group of people.
"The so-called 'snow queen' truly is a monster!" he told them all. "She has used her witchcraft against her sister who lays dying because of her. If you don't believe me, follow the witch's hair and see for yourself."
"It's true!" exclaimed one person I had been following, just now bursting through the ballroom doors. "The princess's hair is white as snow, and the Queen's magic cannot heal her!" A murmur went through the crowd at this revelation.
"If the Queen refuses to put an end to this still, we must take matters into our own hands for the good of everybody," the Duke said. "We need strong volunteers to head up the mountain and force the 'snow queen' to surrender and demand the return of summer." I could only watch in dismay as hand after hand went up, several of them being palace guards. The Duke volunteered his two bodyguards. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. Outraged, I couldn't help but create an ice patch as the Duke stepped down from the thrones' pedestal, where he had taken up his soap-box. He slipped and fell in the most comedic fashion, ending up sprawled across the floor with his toupee falling over his face, which had turned beet red in embarrassment and anger. "The magic spreads to the inside of the castle! We must spread out at once!" he cried.
I hurried back to Rapunzel, cutting her off mid-song, and explained the situation to her. In moments, her attitude had changed from calm and caring to fierce and indignant. She told the boy - Kristoff, she called him - to watch over Anna for the moment, and while I was skeptical of that decision, I didn't have time to grapple with trust as I followed Rapunzel down the hall. A good-sized group had gathered by the front doors, ready to set out after our daughter. "What is the meaning of this?" Rapunzel asked firmly. A few in the group shrank back sheepishly, but the Duke stepped forward, head held high as if he had already won.
"We are going forth to apprehend the monster that threatens the kingdom," he said simply.
"I ordered no party to go after my daughter."
"Except for Princess Anna. You sent her to try and talk, did you not?"
"Yes." The kingdom had noticed the absence of their last princess in the past few days, so Rapunzel had told them that she had sent her to prevent any panic. What would it say about her leadership if she confessed that both of her daughters had run off?
"And obviously, that didn't go as you hoped, but as your own daughter lay dying, you still refuse to take action against this monster-"
"That monster is my daughter!" she snarled, but the duke continued as if he hadn't heard her.
"-so we are taking matters into our own hands and doing whatever must be done to bring back summer."
"Treason!" Rapunzel cried.
The duke looked offended. "Treason? Maybe. But your own daughter defied you first, and you do not convict her of treason."
"You can't do this!" Rapunzel searched the faces of her subjects for sympathy, but many turned away.
"And you can't stop us." He had a point there. A fair portion of his group was made up of most of the royal guard. (There weren't many guards to begin with. We had reduced the staff substantially ages ago to keep Elsa's powers a secret.) The great doors opened, and I stepped forward to blow them shut and possible freeze them - the Duke of Weasel-town wouldn't be expecting me - but Rapunzel grabbed my arm and shook her head.
"You'd only make it worse," she said under her breath. She kept me there until every last person had disappeared into the darkness and the duke had retired to his room, feeling quite proud of himself. When all was quiet, I broke the silence by slamming my staff on the floor as hard as possible. The resulting surge of magic blew the doors shut and froze the entire hallway. Rapunzel slipped a bit on the ice and had to hold onto me for balance.
"How could they do this to you? And what about Elsa?"
"Jack, they're no match for Elsa, and you know it," she tried to assure me.
"Yeah, but they're crazy enough to go tick her off and Pitch Black! And that stupid duke!" I shouted something unintelligible, unable to find any words to express my rage. I knew that later, I was definitely going to freeze his door shut. And his window. If I never saw him ever again, it would be too soon.
"Hey!" She grabbed my shoulder and made me look into her eyes, which were somehow remaining calm through all of this. She was a true leader, always adapting to whatever was thrown her way. I sighed and settled down a bit for her. "Best case scenario: Elsa spots them and forces them back. Worst case scenario: Elsa gets mad, beats them to a pulp, and comes down with Pitch for some sort of revenge, which may or may not destroy the entire kingdom."
"How can you say that with a straight face?"
"Either way, I think things will work out. If they come back, the duke has been proven wrong. If Elsa comes back, that gives us another chance to deal with her, but that will be a while. It takes about a day to climb the North Mountain in good weather, so I believe their trip will be delayed by a couple of hours. Right now, we have more important things to worry about." I sighed and let myself relax a little bit. She was right, as always. She smiled warmly at me and kissed me on the cheek. "You better head to the library, and promise me that you'll at least try to get some rest when you finish your search."
"Fine. I promise," I agreed reluctantly before flying off, not heading towards the library just yet.
"Uh, Jack?" Rapunzel called out behind me.
"You didn't clean this up." I looked back and saw her sliding all around on the ice. I laughed and drifted back down to her.
"But it's more fun this way, don't you think?" I took her by the hand and spun her around until we were both tangled up in her hair. After chuckling and separating, I helped lead her to the edge, almost dancing.
"Now, hurry up and get your revenge over with so you can start doing what you're supposed to," she teased, somehow reading my mind. I shrugged, gave her a farewell kiss on the cheek, and dashed off in the direction of the duke's room.
They had been climbing for hours, over a day now. Pitch and I had sent storms their way constantly, blowing out their lanterns and piling up the snow that they had to trudge through, but they were relentless. They never stopped to rest, and they pushed forward towards my palace. They reached me late into the night, but I was ready for them. I would not fail this time.
The party rudely forced their way through my doors into the main room. I stood at the top of the staircase looking down on them as they, too, were awestruck by my wondrous castle. After an eternity, one of them finally noticed me and alerted the others. "Are you ready now?" Pitch asked skeptically, and I winced at the reminder of my recent failure.
"Absolutely," I replied without any hesitation. A volley of arrows from crossbows flew my direction, and with a wave of my hand, the handrail in front of me became a shield of ice that protected me. One arrow found its way around and was aimed straight at Pitch, but after allowing myself a brief second of panic, I turned to see that he had caught it in front of his face and was looking at it with disinterest, eventually tossing it to the side and throwing a blast of nightmare sand at his attacker, who was out cold without ever knowing what hit him.
A portion of the group realized that their current strategy was ineffective, and they started charging up the staircase towards me. I swept my hand to the side, and as I did, a section of wall shot out and pushed them off the stairs, sending them all crashing through the banister - all except one, who had managed to jump ahead out of the way. He continued towards me, but I stomped my heel on the ground, sending a crack through the ice his way. The next stair he stepped on shattered under his weight, but he caught the next step with one hand and hung their precariously, calling for help. I ignored his pleas and walked stiffly by him, kicking his fingers away as I passed. He screamed and fell to the floor with a sickening thud.
Seeing that made me pause. For a second there, I had been reminded of Anna. I shook my head and begged that though to go away before freezing a carefully aimed arrow that would have hit my head.
I summoned up a series of ice spikes that scattered the group and also imprisoned them in the room. Pitch figured out my plan before I had even finished, and he drew his hand back, as if pulling on the string of a bow, and his nightmare sand assembled into the form of an arrow. He released it, and it severed the ice that had connected the chandelier to the ceiling. The massive chandelier crashed to the ground and shattered everywhere. I had to back against the wall and shield myself from its shards. When it was over, I peered out from behind my ice wall to see complete wreckage of my beautiful palace. Pitch manifested beside me. "How horrible of them," he sneered, kicking a piece of what used to be the banister.
My fury had no words, and I wound my way through the unconscious bodies, picking up a few precious icicles that had once been a part of my beautiful chandelier. It had been my favorite part. It was the most beautiful in my eyes, shaped by me into my own design with Pitch adding his sand to add more patterns. As I held the shards, the sand trickled out of the ice and somehow found its way back to Pitch until I was left with plain, clear ice, which was beautiful in its own right. I huffed and crushed it into snow in my hands.
I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye, and thrusting my hand in that direction, icicles formed and pinned the man to the wall. I strode towards him angrily, keeping one point dangerously close to his throat. "Who sent you? Why are you here?" I hissed, though I could pretty much guess. He wore the uniform of a castle guard.
His voice strained from stretching his head away from the icicles, he sputtered, "P-Princess Anna! Sh-she-!"
"Anna?" I exclaimed in shock, my hand dropping to my side numbly, much to the man's relief, though he was knocked out by Pitch just a moment later.
I stumbled back, clutching my head. No. No. Anna wouldn't do that, would she? "She fears you," Pitch said, his voice calm despite my panic.
"That's what I wanted," I told him, but it sounded more like I was trying to reassure myself.
"But she doesn't fear you enough. She hates you."
"No, Anna wouldn't. She still cared." I felt tears sting my eyes, and I shut them tight, desperately trying to force them back. Unfortunately, without the light of the world, I was left to the darkness in my head and my own frantic thoughts. Anna just couldn't hate me. She stayed by me even knowing I could hurt her, which is why she needed to fear me, but she couldn't hate me. Could she?
"She hates you now, just like everybody else. She sent people to kill you, Elsa." Pitch's voice seemed to echo inside my own head.
Anna wouldn't! But the guard had said it. Why? Anna hated me? She hated me! She was just the same as everyone else, valuing me until faced with my power. I wondered if she was jealous of me for having my powers, for seeming closer to Father, but didn't she realize that she was the favorite child? I had been imprisoned for her sake!
Anna hated me! The revelation was too much to bear. I was caught somewhere between deep despair and unimaginable rage. How could she?
Whoever described anger as hot was completely wrong. For me, as my anger consumed me, I felt my heart grow cold. It was an extremely painful experience, but I found as it was slowly frozen into a lump of ice, that I was unable to cry. The cold in my heart seemed to spread throughout my entire body and continued to expand until I was trembling with the pressure of it. Finally, it all exploded out of me as an immense icy blast and a shriek of pain that I had not imagined was a sound that I could make. The magic was so strong that it cracked and shattered the walls of my palace and formed a massive blizzard all around me.
I was left standing at the center of it all, feeling colder than ever, filled with frozen fury at Anna, at Dad, and at the world.
It was a long minute before I remembered that Pitch stood next to me. He placed what felt like a comforting hand on my shoulder and brought me out of my head. I opened my eyes and looked up at his sly smile, and I returned it, knowing that he was the only family I truly had. "I think it's time we make them fear you completely, once and for all," he whispered in my ear, seeming to read my thoughts. I laughed, a chilling, hollow sound. Yes, they all needed to see my power. They all needed to fear me. Everything would be as it should.
In a tornado of sand and snow, we were off towards my kingdom.
(Dun Dun Duuuuun! Racing towards the climax here! I'm so excited! And even though I don't want this fic to end, it would be a blessing to finish this before my winter break ends in less than a week. Just a few chapters left! I will be starting another fic soon with Jack Frost. I'll let you know when I get that up because I want to see your reactions to the first chapter before I continue with it. Now to address a question from acts29forchrist: I have actually thought of Rapunzel's powers having that effect, and that will be brought up later on, but thank you for mentioning it or I might have forgotten. You guys are getting these chapters as soon as I finish them, so I have to plan these out carefully when I'm not at my computer. As always, I love hearing your thoughts and theories in reviews! PS: "Update soon plz" does not count as a thought or theory unless it comes at the end of an actual thought or theory. I like hearing what you liked about a chapter, not just that you liked it.)