Muted murmurs could be heard from beyond the large doors that led into the main stateroom. The wood was surprisingly, and unfortunately well suited for blocking traveling sounds. Still leaning with an ear pressed against the door, Anna reached a hand behind her back and felt cold glass placed against it. "Thank you," she whispered merrily, oblivious to the disapproving look Gerda had given her.
The head maid chided in hushed tones. "Your highness, this really isn't–"
Anna waved at her dismissively. "Not now, Gerda. I'm trying to listen."
The offer for the princess to join in on the meeting had been brought up during brunch, but summarily rejected. Facing a cadre of foreign dignitaries and diplomats was an imposing prospect. Elsa didn't need a bumbling princess stumbling over her skirts and a foot in her mouth for something as important as this. Especially for something as important as the first big official meeting to apologise for the endless winter in person.
Anna still didn't feel fully confident about her political prowess, if she had any at all. Though she had spent some of the winter months with Elsa, studying and learning more about the European scene, she had more often than not ended up choosing to explore the snowy wilds with Kristoff intead. Maybe it was the romantic nature of the excursions that kept Elsa from joining them more than just a handful of times, despite Anna's endless requests.
Not to mention that the Duke was in there, along with some prince from the Southern Isles. At least they were smart enough not to bring their youngest princeling back to Arendelle. Anna wasn't sure what she would have done if that had happened, but she knew it wouldn't be something that would help the relations between the two kingdoms.
A collective gasp could be heard from the other side. Anna began to regret her decision to stay outside. She pulled the glass away from the wood, placing it gently on the floor next to her. A peek couldn't hurt, could it? She bit her lip and pressed the handle down as softly as she could. The door opened slightly, granting a view of the room. A wave of cold struck her.
Inside, the long table was filled to capacity with well-dressed gentlemen and the odd lady here and there. They were all focused on the other side of the room, on Elsa. Her sister was swishing from side to side, dancelike in her movements. Around her, magic lay heavy in the air. Strange shapes were growing into existence around the foreign guests. Anna felt a tap on her back. She turned.
"Your highness," Gerda whispered, visibly worried. "Spying isn't becoming for a princess! What would your sister say if she found out? Or one of the guests?"
Anna rolled her eyes at the comment. "Oh, it's fine! I'm sure Elsa wouldn't mind." She glanced back through the opening. Elsa was addressing the room. Turning back to face Gerda, she continued. "Besides, it's not like anyone noticed yet."
"… You are dismissed," said Elsa's commanding voice from inside the room. There was a scraping of chairs against the floor and the mumblings grew louder. Anna stole one last look, catching the sight of her sister rapidly approaching.
The princess yelped and made a dash for the corner, pulling Gerda with her. Anna did her best to ignore the head maid's exasperated glare. From the safety of their hiding place, the pair heard the foreigners shuffle out of the stateroom. Their jumbled discussion was impossible to make head or tails of. One by one the voices trailed off, leaving an empty hallway.
Anna flashed a grin. "See? It's all fine!"
Anna's knuckles hovered before the closed doors that guarded the queen's study. There weren't that many other places her sister could be. For some reason she couldn't really pinpoint, the Queen's study always felt cold. It wasn't just that it was slightly chillier in the large, angular room compared to the rest of the castle, even the light that made it in from the outside lost some of its warmth. She was sure that it wasn't like that when she was younger.
Her quick, signature rap on the door was met with a moment of silence. Then came a voice from inside. "Come in, Anna."
She pushed the doors ajar and entered the dimly lit room. Elsa stood by a bright window, nothing more than a silhouette against the light. She was watching something outside. On one small table not far away from her was a glass. Very much like the one Anna had used earlier. Not turning from her watch, Elsa spoke. "It's not very becoming of a princess to spy."
"Oh. Ah– you… you saw that?" asked Anna, wincing slightly on the spot. "I'm sorry Elsa, um, I didn't mean to–"
Elsa's giggle cut her short. "Don't be silly, Anna. I could never be mad at you."
The princess glanced around, not sure what to say. A clear object caught her attention. She approached the large desk Elsa so often worked at. Square in the middle sat a perfect orb of ice, strangely sparkling in the absence of direct light. It was hollow, containing another ball of ice within. The smaller sphere, unlike its container, was opaque. Anna poked it carefully with a finger. "What's this?" she asked.
"A test," replied her sister. "Our guests each received one as a gift for their understanding and patience over the events at the coronation." Elsa let out a sigh. "Truth be told, I would have liked to hold the meeting earlier. But it would have been in poor taste to give such a gift in winter, and its powers untested."
"Powers?" Anna frowned, still studying the strange icy globe. It almost felt like it was looking back at her.
"Ice that never melts, to remind them of Arendelle's beauty and our desire for friendship."
"Hm," the princess noted. "I guess it would make more sense in spring instead of winter." Leaving the desk, Anna made her way to her sister by the window, still impassive. She wanted to know what was keeping her sister's focus so.
Down in the courtyard, the Duke and a few other of the guests were slowly passing the castle gates, each holding a globe. They seemed to be arguing.
"Good," Elsa said quietly, almost to herself. "At least someone understood the point of that display."
Anna turned, confused. "Huh?"
What she saw made her jaw drop. Elsa was staring unblinking ahead, her eyes pure white and alit with power. "I was counting on the duke being clever enough, and greedy enough, to accept my invitation." She blinked, and her eyes were back to normal. As she made for the desk, her crystal dress billowing, Elsa continued. "He's been at the head of the little ring plotting against Arendelle ever since we kicked him out. This should put his plans on ice."
"How do you…" Anna began. Then something clicked. "… Elsa, can you see through those things?"
Elsa only smiled in response.
Anna's eyes widened. "You can hear through them too?"
"They are made out of ice, after all," the elder replied slyly. "And if they take the globes back home, which I think they will, we'll have eyes and ears in every court from the Isles to the heart of Europe."
"Elsa," the princess swallowed. "That's super, super creepy."
"I suppose," Elsa admitted. Her voice became stiff. "But they already think so. It would be a shame to disappoint."
Silence reigned for a moment before Anna had the courage to speak again. The room felt a little colder. "When did you learn to do this?" she asked quietly. In truth, she already had her suspicions.
"It's a little trick I picked from… my predecessors," Elsa said with a smirk. "There's a lot to learn if you know where to look."
Yeah, thought Anna. I think I know.
A/N: That marks the end of this story. In truth, this last segment was heavily based on another snippet I read some time ago, which (along with the works of certain authors out there) prompted me to start this writing exercise. I admit that without any shame at all. So you can say I wrote 28k words just so I could squeeze out this scene in my own words and in my own version of the Frozen world.
I feel that some mysteries and threads were a bit unclear, but at the same time, I think all the clues are in the text. I hope.
There was a lot that didn't make it into the final version, unfortunately. And whatever more I had planned doesn't feel quite right to bring into this. I would love to keep on building on this version of the Frozen world, but I don't think pure worldbuilding is fun to read. If there's a strong interest or a lot of questions, I'd be happy to add an appendix or perhaps segue into another story.
As always, comments and critiques are more than welcome.
To all readers: thank you so much for bearing with me this far!