A/N: Cover image by Julais on Deviantart.
What had possessed her to go through with this? Had some madness overwhelmed her mind, or was it a simple case of peer pressure? Her advisors had certainly favored the idea; therefore she would blame them for her current predicament.
Oh, certainly, it was not all unpleasant. The sky was clear, the birds were singing, and the festive atmosphere was intoxicating. Boats belonging to many, many kingdoms were crammed into Arendelle's harbor. All of her citizens were happy, but she was uneasy. Perched on her throne Elsa, Queen of Arendelle, stared into the overly-pleased faces of her advisors. Exhaling slowly, she dismissed them with a smooth gesture, her voice soft, through it carried through the mostly-empty hall of her throne-room.
"Tell them I will be out shortly."
Preparations for this fiasco had begun two months ago. It was funny how a simple conversation could turn into an event. A simple discussion during a dinnertime meeting had gotten out of hand faster than the queen could rein it back in. It had been herself, Anna, and three of her advisors. They had simply been discussing matters of trade, matters that she could easily handle now without so much as batting an eye. Or, more accurate, getting a cramp in her wrist. It had spiraled out of control from there.
".. Now, Queen Elsa, next is.. ah," One of the counselors, a portly man with a fantastic moustache, had started it all, frowning as he looked down at the paper before him. "The Southern Isles."
Elsa had looked up sharply at that, and Anna proceeded to start coughing on her mouthful of food. Elsa had noted with displeasure that she needed to chew, before she turned her icy gaze on the unfortunate man. Her hands clasped in front of her, Elsa's air of calm would have been convincing, had it not been for the touch of frost that crept from her hands and onto the mahogany table. Swallowing hard, the man continued, trying to ignore the looks he was getting from.. well, everyone. Anna looked almost horrified, now that she had stopped choking, and the other two advisors, a man and a woman, looked terrified for their compatriot's mental well-being.
"I know our relationship with them is tenuous at best.." He paused again, watching the Queen, who said nothing. Clearing his throat, he carried on once more, surprised by the lack of interruption. ".. but they have trade goods that Arendelle needs. We shouldn't allow a small suitor fiasco.."
"He tried to kill us!" That was Anna's voice, cutting the man up as the young Princess sat up in indignation. "That's not a suitor fiasco! And we shouldn't trade with them! Tell him, Elsa! … I mean uh, Queen Elsa. .. We're not going to, are we?"
"No," The Queen answered simply, placing her hands on the table as she looked to her sibling. The ice on the table had begun to fade away in small, sparkly flakes that disappeared into the very air. "I don't care how many tradable goods they want to offer us, after what that man did."
The Queens's voice held barely-restrained fury, leaving the man who had brought up the issue cringing. The other aides seemed... reluctant, at the very least, to come to his aid, so he went silent. Good. They knew to not go against the Queen's authority. Sitting back in her chair, Elsa let her shoulders relax and a slow sigh escaped her lips, as if she was trying to release the very tension in her muscles through her breath. Anna had sat back down now, though she was still eyeing the fat advisor with a look of unhidden disdain. The girl had always been very bad at hiding her opinions of others; almost as bad as she was at asserting any sort of authority. She was silently thankful for her sister's support. Not that she had expected otherwise. Elsa hated Hans' stupid guts just as much as she did, so it was only logical that she would hate his family's stupid guts as well. Sure, it might be slightly petty but—no, no. It wasn't petty. He had tried to murder them both and steal the kingdom. That snake.
"Anna, it is already dead."
Her sister's gentle voice caused Anna to look up, then down at her plate, realizing with embarrassment that she had been taking her anger out on the steak. It was now filled with many, many, tiny fork holes that where steadily leaking juice onto the plate. Face reddening to her ears, she pouted as Elsa, who lifted her hand to hover before her mouth as she let out a bell-like giggle. Anna felt her face grow hotter, and she looked away, reaching up to push a lock of hair behind her ear. The nervous tick had stuck with her.
"Speaking of suitors, though," the female advisor suddenly piped up, making the two sisters, once again, look up sharply. "Queen Elsa, you really need to become more serious about them. You have been receiving marriage proposals since you were very young, and you've yet to even allow any of them to visit. Arendelle will need a heir."
Anna didn't like her. A snooty, hawk-nosed woman with her little glasses and her beady eyes. She was stabbing the steak again. Elsa reached over and placed her hand on top of her sister's to still the violent movements, though her eyes remained on the advisor's face. Anna huffed crossly, simply letting go of the fork and pulling her hand away, letting it rest on her lap alongside the other.
"I should think that I would be able to decide for myself who and when I will marry."
"Well, yes, but the other kingdoms are starting to talk-"
"And so are your own people."
The woman's final words gave Elsa pause. Her own people were already worrying about an heir. Certainly, she was of age, but she did not think that this topic would come up so soon. As worried as she had been about her powers before, she had almost hoped that her people gaining knowledge of them would make them simply worry and talk about that for the next few years. While it warmed her heart to know that the people of Arendelle had already accepted them enough to focus on other topics.. the fact that it was this issue in particular on the tongues of her people made her uneasy. The queen reached up and let her fingers slide across her bangs. Her hair was up once more, her more 'free' style typically left for periods of relaxation and privacy. Part of her wished to change the topic, but these were her advisers. They were here to advise.
"What do you suggest, then?"
Anna nearly spat her tea everywhere. Elsa was actually considering going through with this? What? What? She gave her sister a dismayed look, which she didn't seem to notice or refused to acknowledge. Nor did she notice the fact that Anna was now wildly gesticulating out of the corner of her vision. She'd explain her reasoning later. For now she kept her eyes locked on her three consultants, gaze slowly scanning them as she waited for them to pipe up. If they lacked any ideas, she'd simply dismiss the topic-
"What about a tournament?"
Elsa blinked, looking over towards her third advisor. He was the youngest of the tree, a handsome man a few years older than Elsa herself. She vaguely recalled that he had been appointed due to some sort of political favor when her mother and father were still alive. Her had only been working as such for about a year now, but he was very eager and determined to prove himself. A touch too ambitious for Elsa's liking, but he was efficient enough at completing paperwork and now, apparently, at coming up with… interesting… ideas.
"A tournament! Sword-fighting, of course. Perhaps it is a bit of a cliché idea, but there's something so romantic about the idea of fighting for love, is there not?" The young man seemed to be swooning over his own idea.
"Well, I suppose, but I'd rather not leave the results of my marriage to such chance-"
"Oh, no! It won't be for your hand, your majesty. The tournament will simply be an excuse to gather up many eligible young lords. No, the reward will be.."
"What about a kiss?" The portly aide spoke up again, now smiling in a almost mischievous manner.
"A kiss! Perfect! It tells them of the intention of the tourney without making it official."
"I must admit, it is a very effective plan. We shall get started immediately." The elderly woman spoke up, nodding her agreement to the two others before standing.
"I don't think-"
"Do not worry, my lady. It will go off without a hitch!"
Further protests died in Elsa's throat as the trio fled the scene. Anna hadn't moved since the idea was first announced. A tourney? For a kiss? Some slimy noble was going to fight to kiss her sister? And potentially marry her? But, wait, how, what!? The old Anna may have found this idea amazing and romantic, but this Anna.. this Anna was uneasy about the whole thing. Looking back to her sister, she practically threw her arms in the air as she came to a stand.
"Anna, really. I mean, it is not my first choice of methods, but a kiss is hardly-"
"A kiss is everything! A kiss can be how you find your true love! You can't just.. smooch on some guy that's good at swinging a piece of metal around!"
"Anna, if you do not wish to involve yourself, that is your prerogative.. but things have already been put in motion. Apparently."
Elsa sighed again. It wasn't as if she could tell the advisers, or her people, that she lacked interest in marriage to any man. Really, that was the main issue. She simply had no interest in them. Others would call her infatuation towards the fairer sex an abomination, a crime against God, but she could not lie to herself. She had done that for thirteen years, about both this and her powers. No she could not lie to herself.. but she had no choice but to lie to her advisors. At least this was rather tame.. and it was simply for a kiss. She could handle that, she'd have to. She turned her head to reassure her sibling, but her words stilled in her throat as she saw that Anna had already gotten up and was going out of the door, letting it slam behind her. Elsa smiled wryly, how ironic.
Anna fumed as she escaped from her sister's gaze, cheeks burning, a plan forming in her mind.
Here she was, a month later, eyes shutting as she tried to calm herself. Anna had not spoken to her much since then, and it was wearing a hole in her heart. She supposed she had no right to complain. She had shut Anna out of her life for thirteen years. That did not mean it didn't sting, though. This feeling of loneliness. She missed her sister's laugh, her bright smile, glimpses of her fiery hair just before she was captured in a spontaneous hug. Her babbling stories and her eagerness to spend time with her. The way the corner of her lips quirked up when she was trying to stifle a giggle. The way she licked them when she was concentrating or how they would form a gentle smile whenever she laid her head on her shoulder as they two of them caught up on missed-out storybooks. The way they must feel when—
Elsa pulled on her glove as the odd thought passed through her mind, causing the skin over her faintly freckled cheeks to glow a soft pink. Where had that come from? She knew she missed her sister, but she wasn't aware that such feelings could cause something like that to form in her consciousness. She brushed off the longing as simply and intense urge to be with her sibling, as siblings, after so long. Yes. Elsa cleared her throat and glanced about nervously; suddenly very worried that someone had been watching her. No one. The servants knew she still enjoyed her privacy and periods of isolation. Ironic, but Elsa had become so accustomed to it that she needed time to herself now. The only other person who would bother her was Anna, and she found herself somewhat relieved about their separation now. Her mind was currently not cooperating with her.
A gruff voice rang out in the air. It originated from the back courtyard of the castle, near the barracks for the royal guard. The training ground was abuzz with activity.. but that was mostly around the outer edge. The entire center was left empty save for two figures: an older-looking gentleman with a beard, and a shorter woman with ginger hair flailing a sword. More specifically, Hallvard, the captain of the guard, and Anna. The girl let out a yell as she brought the sword up, delivering a swift downward strike into the dummy's shoulder. It left a gash as Anna wrenched the blade free again and stumbled back a little, breathing hard. She had been at this for a good few hours now, and the guards watching her still had not left.
"Alright. That's enough for now."
"Wait, what? I'm just getting started Come on! I can keep going!"
"No. Your arms are liable to fall off at this rate. You should not be in such a rush. The royal guard will defend you, with or without this hobby."
Anna bit back a comment, bristling. It wasn't as if she could explain the real reason she was doing this. He wouldn't understand. No one would. Her given reason was for self-defense. What if someone broke into the castle? What if they went to war? What if there was another Hans? It was mostly the last one that had made the commander give in. They were all lies. Anna knew she could take another Hans if she had to. She had a mean right hook. The real reason was due to the uneasy feeling in her stomach she got every time she imagined Elsa kissing a faceless nobleman. The burning in her cheeks whenever Elsa was gently affectionate. It was for the tournament. She had been driving herself hard all this month. There was only one more to go before the tournament. She had to be ready. She had to be good. No, great. There wasn't time for these breaks that Hallvard kept sending her on.. but it wasn't as if she could tell him to shove it.
Frowning, Anna let the weapon drop from her hands, which she then wiped on her pants. Yes, pants. A dress was hardly sword fighting attire. Adorned in cloth pants, boots, and a belted tunic, she looked.. well, honestly, not that odd. Such an outfit seemed to suit her, in a strange manner, just as much as her dresses did. Her hair was mussed, her braid lose and threatening to become unbound. As she continued to grumble to herself, Hallvard approached and put a large hand on her shoulder. She looked up into his face, his gruff expression now replaced with an almost fatherly smile. He gave her back a firm pat, which made her stagger only slightly.
"Go on. I'll clean up. And you get yourself cleaned up. You did well today, you're really improving. Hell, you'll be able to go toe-to-toe with one of my boys with a little more practice!"
The gruff man chuckled, but he was being perfectly honest. The Princess seemed to have a knack for this, which surprised him immensely. She was known for being, well, a bit of a klutz. Even so, she handled a blade well. While he had been against this initially, he had to admit that it would make him feel better knowing she could handle herself in a fight. The Queen had her powers, and Anna would have this. Oh, it certainly didn't mean that the royal guard would just idle around, oh no. It was just that, if the worst happened, he knew the two of them would be a little bit safer. Smiling as he watched the Princess stagger off, he turned to pick up the training sword and pulled the hacked-at dummy out of the slot, walking off to replace it. As he did so, he noticed that his guards were still staring at the Princess,. More accurately, her posterior as she walked off. Scowling, he yelled in a booming voice.
"Back to work, the lot of you!"
Before returning to her room, Anna decided to make a pit stop to the kitchen. She was starving. This was made abundantly clear as she began to pester the kitchen hands. She didn't specific what she wanted. Just a lot of something. Like, a lot. It got bad enough that they shooed her out, and she ended up waiting outside the door, pacing around while they prepared the Princess a meal. Arms crossed, heel resting on the floor with a foot tilted up, she found herself leaned against the wall and.. slowly nodding off. Her head drooped until she chin rested on her chest, and she felt herself starting to drift…
"Your bed would be more comfortable."
Anna jumped at the voice, almost falling as she turned sharply to look at her sister, who now appeared to be panicked.
"Anna! I- I'm sorry. I didn't know you were already asleep.. I just thought.."
She was flustered, and her hands were extended into the air, as if she was trying to decide if she wanted to hug her sibling apologetically or not. Anna let out a sigh as she clasped her hand over her heart while raising the other hand.
"It's alright! I'm fine. I was just.. resting my eyes. Really. You just startled me a little."
Elsa seemed appeased by this, slowly regaining her composure. Well, somewhat. Now, she simply felt awkward. She and her sister had not spoken for much of this month, and now that they were face-to-face, she wanted to ask her why. She bit down on her lower lip as she averted her gaze, trying to ponder the right words. Anna was struck by her sister's beauty, and by the cuteness of the gesture. Part of her wanted to hug her, despite the fact that Elsa had now lowered her arms, while the other part of her realized she probably smelled awful. Suddenly self-conscious, Anna took a step back. This was not unnoticed by her sister, who looked at her with an expression of confusion and—Anna realized with a pang of guilt—hurt. She rushed to explain.
"I- I stink," she started, then flushed red as she waved her hands. "I mean! I probably smell bad because of.. sweat and stuff and.. um, I've been practicing sword-fighting so-"
Anna felt her throat go dry. Her sister was hosting a sword-fighting tournament, and here she was admitting what she had been up to for the past month. Hopefully her excuse from before would work on her sibling as well.
"Self-defense! You know. Just in case. There might be another Hans out there and I just want to be able to protect myself just in case. Not that I'd fall for that again! Or marry someone on the first day!"
Elsa was now staring at her strangely, and Anna wilted under the gaze. Had she bought it? Did she think she was weird?
".. I see. And that is what has been keeping you so busy?"
"Yep! Real busy! Learning to.. swing a metal thing at a wooden thing.."
Elsa knitted her brows suspiciously. Why the sudden interest in sword-fighting? She supposed it made sense for Anna to want to learn to defend herself after what had happened. Merely thinking about it made her eyes narrow and her pulse quicken. If anyone tried to take advantage of her sister like that again, she would freeze them, and that would be that. She would not risk it again. No, her sister would not get married to someone in a day again. Elsa noted with discomfort that she found herself thinking: I'd rather her not get married at all. Her improper feelings were quickly becoming an issue, especially as she took the time to look at Anna, really look at her. Disheveled and dressed in somewhat masculine clothing, her sister cut an adventurous and.. dare she say attractive.. figure.
"Well, I must be going, then. I will speak with you later?"
"Huh? Oh, yes! Yep. Definitely later."
Shoot, had Elsa caught her staring? She was turning away really quickly. Had she smelled her? Oh, God. Anna tugged on her shirt and titled her head down, giving herself a sniff. Oh God it's like something died, she thought with horror. No wonder she had run off so quickly. Embarrassed, her whole body on fire, Anna fled as well, leaving her food unretrieved as she went off to bathe as quickly as physically possible.
Another month had passed in the same manner, and now here she was. The day of the tournament had arrived, and Elsa steeled herself to step out into the courtyard. Everyone would be gathered out there, though the actual tournament was to be held at the training ground in the back. Before she stepped out, Elsa could not resist taking another glance behind her. No, it appeared that Anna would not be here to announce the start of the tourney with her. The disappointment was nearly enough to make her cry. Was she really that upset about the whole thing? Would she resent her for this? It was too late to go back on her word, regardless. Nodding to the guards, they proceeded to open the gates, and she stepped out into the courtyard amidst roaring cheers and applause.
At the back of the crowd, amidst the other nobles here to compete, there was a small figure. Adorned in the finery of a nobleman, the figure's head was covered by a hood and mask, a cloak swathed around their body. Eyes glinting from behind the mask, the figure grinned and bounced on their heels. This was going to be fun.