Princess Anna's joy when finally reunited with her sister was hard to understate. For the first few days, the two sisters were almost inseparable. Over a decade worth of separation and unspoken emotion crashed together in a series of intense days and nights.
When the kingdom's new Icemaster and Deliverer Kristoff decided to make a short trip up the mountains again, he invited the princess to come along. Though Anna wanted Elsa to join them and see the sights when not frozen in perpetual winter, the queen had her duties to attend to. It felt a little bit strange seeing the pair leave so soon but she knew it would only be for a few days.
Elsa paced about the study. It was once again a bright and welcoming place, in a sense at least. The countless ledgers, books and documents were a bit stressful to look at. The events at the coronation had led to an avalanche of correspondence and paperwork.
"… with utmost respect…" she mumbled as she scanned the contents of the letter. At the very bottom, a number of seals decorated the document. Though the wording was polite and apologetic, Elsa knew that it was all about the politics, there was no real feeling of remorse behind it.
She was unsure how her reply to the Southern Isles should be – foreign relations and trade agreements were one thing, but the incident involving prince Hans was another matter entirely. Sending him away so quickly might have been a mistake, but keeping him in Arendelle might have been an even bigger problem.
Fortunately, Kai was a knowledgeable and resourceful man. Elsa was sure that his counsel on the matter would be valuable. But she had no desire to deal with these grim matters so early in the morning and the list of things she was to delegating to Kai was growing painfully long again. Though it had been like this since she became princess regent, it didn't feel as proper anymore. She was the queen now.
Elsa was well aware that no ruler on the continent was capable of managing everything alone, but the uncomfortable feeling lingered and soon became too much. She had to take a break.
Ever since the castle gates were opened, Elsa had relied on her sister's overflowing energy to renew herself after the taxing responsibilities of rule. Now that Anna was away with Kristoff, Elsa had to find something else to keep her mind off work, if only for a short while.
She went for a walk.
The castle corridors were vast with high ceilings painted in flowers and decorative patterns, much like the rich wallpapers and carpets that ran along their length. From the open windows rays of golden light shot in, bringing the warmth of summer to the otherwise cool interiors. With no servants about, the only sounds were the chirping of birds and the lapping of the waves against the breakwaters. Elsa wandered slowly and aimlessly, tracing the wallpaper with her fingers.
She suddenly found herself next to the giant double doors of the castle library. The white, lacquered wood was blinding in the sunlight. The brass handles felt warm to the touch and squeaked slightly as they were pressed down. A familiar smell of mustiness quickly filled Elsa's nose as she entered the dim room.
Tall bookcases lines the walls, stretching from floor to ceiling. Each row filled to the brim with books and encyclopaedias. Elsa remembered how she had spent many a childhood days in her room with stories from this library, or studiously reading the numerous books assigned to her as homework by her tutors. Like any child that age, she had much rather been playing outside with her sister, but because of her curse – no, her powers – she had no choice but to shy away from such things. Being the heir to the throne added to the pressure as well. Her father had insisted on the importance of her education. No ruler of Arendelle was to be found wanting.
In the end, Elsa found some solace from her then situation among the books and though she'd rather not become the princess regent at her age, her studiousness had served her well.
The large oaken table that had so often served as a place of study was now devoid of contents. Thick curtains had been drawn shut against the light outside. A handful slivers of light managed to slip through the gaps, lancing across the room and bouncing off the motes of dust in the air. Elsa leaned on the solid surface of the table and took a deep breath. Her gaze traced the line of light through the air and unto the gilded leather spines decorating the shelves. Struck by curiosity, she approached the books to investigate whatever had caught her attention.
Poems Chiefly in Scottish Dialect.
Not quite what she was hoping for. The followed the line of books, reading each spine carefully. Each time, she was disappointed. There was nothing but foreign novels and collections of strange poetry. Then she came across an ancient-looking leather spine. It didn't share modern lettering or decoration of the other books she had seen so far. Instead, deep embossing had been used to mark out old runes. In the deeper crevices of the material there were still hints of dark colouring. She had never seen the book before, in all her time spent in the library.
Elsa was intrigued. She pulled the book into her arms and passed her hand across the surface. The face of the book was similar to the spine. Ancient leather with black runes carved into it. The edge was decorated in faded colours and a set of clasps held the book shut. She undid them and held her breath in anticipation as the first pages were turned.
The pages were filled with runes and the edges illuminated in a simple but elegant manner. It reminded her of the illustrations she studied history as a child. She flicked through the pages, not bothering with the writing. Runes were beyond even her linguistic prowess.
A page caught her eye. A large illustration filled the page from top to bottom, depicting a dark figure looming over a man in olden clothes lying on a slab of stone. Two black trees reached across the page on either side. But the thing that drew Elsa in was the blue smoke rising from the man into the air. The faded blue lines curled upwards in intricate patterns.
"This… is magic" she mouthed.
Thoughts surged through her mind in rapid succession. Had this book always been here? Did her father know about this? Did it have any connection to the trolls? What else could be hidden among its pages? She took the book to the table and looked at the image for a long time.
When she was younger, ever since she struck Anna by accident, Elsa had considered her power a curse. Through that single terrifying moment, her magic had lost its charm. It transformed into something dark that had to be controlled, and something that in turn controlled her. She was so busy being scared of hurting others that she never thought of exploring her powers. Why she had them to begin with. Why she was the only one that could use magic.
For the first time, those questions burned in her mind. She wanted to know more and the book before her was the first clue and key to her past and powers. The runes kept her from delving deeper. For now.