Chapter 1: Tempest
Word was the war lasted less than a day.
But who used to be Princess Anna of the nation once known as Arendelle knew better. When Queen Elsa of the Southern Isles declared war, Arendelle had not fallen in less than a day, but less than hours. Nobody could have seen it coming, not when Arendelle and the Southern Isles had such good relations for all these years; but even so, Arendelle was more than prepared for invasion. Flatly refusing the terms of surrender, Arendelle readied itself for war. Whatever earthly force dared to strike at Arendelle would be met by one of the strongest navies and one of the most united nations in the world.
Whatever earthly force.
Anna had been there to witness it, an innocuous lone battleship sailing in from the south that brought with it an unstoppable tempest of destruction.
"What is that?" Anna asked.
Beside her, the King had no answer.
From the top of Arendelle Castle, Anna peered through a spyglass and saw an opaque ship sailing across the seas with no sail. That was the first thing to catch her attention, because as she watched in open-mouthed disbelief, the battleship surged across the waves completely unaided. It looked as though the ship propelled itself through sheer force of will, and only when Anna got over the impossibility of its movement did she notice the ship's beauty.
"It's made out of ice," Anna breathed.
And again she had to marvel at the impossible feat, because the sun beat down with summer heat and the coastal waters were warm, much too warm for ice. How could an entire ship be made out of ice? Completely flawless ice, with no veins or air bubbles or debris of any kind to mar the transparent blue surface glittering like diamonds as it refracted the light. Ridges and crests formed what was indeed a battleship: stern, bow, masts, and then as if to further pronounce the ethereality, the ship stopped and sails of ice appeared to finish the ensemble.
"Someone is coming," the King said. Both he and Anna looked on with breathless anticipation, confused and anxious about this unexpected turn of events.
A single woman stepped out to the bow, dressed nothing like any warrior or herald. Anna herself had been outfitted in armor, unfitting though it felt on her lanky form, mostly to inspire the citizens of Arendelle; but even in her most regal dresses she felt inadequate compared to the stranger. Platinum blonde hair and white skin Anna could only dream of, a porcelain complexion as though she had never once seen the light of day. Her dress oddly resembled the ship, light blue and slightly transparent, and the long end trailing behind her melded into the ship in a way suggesting more than color similarity.
"That's Queen Elsa," the King said, sounding more frightened than Anna had ever heard from her normally steadfast father.
"But still," Anna muttered, unnerved by the strange sight and not knowing why, half trying to convince herself that all was still well, "What is one weird person going to do, right?"
She found out when Queen Elsa raised her arms to the sky and summoned death.
Though the king immediately sounded for the alarms, nothing could be done to stop the immediate glacial snowstorm that struck. Out of a clear blue sky erupted a mixture of hail and snow that blocked out the sun itself, ice shards all shaped like miniature spears and falling with unnatural speed as though launched down. Frost spread from the bottom of the mysterious battleship to cover the fjord, freezing over the water in mid-wave and leaving a rutted field of ice.
"Kill the sorceress!"
At the king's command, archers fired from the castle walls and trebuchets launched entire boulders at the woman, but she remained standing calmly with arms outstretched. A great wave of ice spiked up out of the ground and neatly caught every single arrow, resisted the impact of dozens of boulders, all without leaving a scratch. As soon as the barrage ended, the wall fell. Anna could catch a small pull at the corner of Elsa's lips.
She wants to see this, Anna realized. That was the only reason the wall fell. Elsa wanted to watch the fall of Arendelle with her own eyes.
Ice rained down from the heavens and impaled a thousand men, like holy judgment from the Queen watching from her seat of glory.
With its entire navy frozen uselessly in the banks and its army decimated by ice that could not be guarded against, Arendelle offered terms of surrender.
Queen Elsa did not accept.
An army of snow creatures stormed Arendelle and Queen Elsa very calmly walked unhindered to the castle gates, froze through them until they were brittle and waved them aside with a gust of icy wind, and strolled in to meet the royal family.
"There will be no surrender," Elsa said, again very calmly, as though stating simple fact while she sat on the throne and the King of Arendelle kneeled on the floor with a blade of ice hovering over his throat. "Surrender means negotiation. There will be no negotiation. Only my terms will be heard."
"Then what do you want, Elsa?"
"Absolute fealty," Elsa said. The King moved to speak, and the ice moved closer as he tried to straighten himself. He flinched back, silenced. "I will have complete sovereignty, though you may keep your throne as my vassal. You will complete demilitarization within a month. You will pay us tribute every year, the amount of which I may dictate at will. You may conduct trade only with the Southern Isles, in both import and export. And–"
Despite the King's protest, Anna sprang to her feet from where she kneeled beside him. There had been nothing hindering her, likely because Elsa thought her no threat; but as Anna stood, she saw a battalion of those strange snow beasts begin to converge around her. She only raised her head towards Elsa with a straight back, uncaring of the danger, and Elsa waved a hand. The creatures subsided.
"You may speak your mind," Elsa murmured.
"What you're demanding is completely unfair," Anna said, taking a step closer to her father's throne, which Elsa had no right to be seated on.
"Anna, please, stop before you're hurt–"
Elsa glared down, gaze frigid, and the temperature in the throne room dropped until frost coated the windows. The King silenced once more, and only then did the temperature ease back. Not comfortable, but tolerably cold as long as one wore enough winter clothing. Anna did not.
"Continue," Elsa said.
Anna pursed her lips, unafraid. "First of all, my pappa isn't going to be your vassal when this is our kingdom–"
"A conquered kingdom," Elsa corrected, throwing a quick glance over to the defeated King. He looked completely resigned to his fate, but he had also given up on persuading Anna.
"Well, how are we going to defend ourselves if another person like you comes along and we don't have any military?" Anna neglected to mention just how very effective their military had been.
Elsa nodded. "I offer you protection in return for your loyalty."
Anna wasn't appeased. If anything, she only grew angrier. "Trade, then! How are we supposed to survive just trading with you? And we can't give you tribute, not after what you did–"
"I will, of course, unfreeze your fields and the fjord," Elsa said. "Your domestic economic activity will remain untouched. I will also offer you proper compensation. I would not have Arendelle starve."
"You don't know anything about Arendelle!" Anna cried. "You don't know the people, you don't know our culture, so how are you going to rule? You don't even deserve it!"
Anna's breathless shout echoed through the throne room, and she heaved with the force of both the shout and her emotions. Angry tears prickled in her eyes. She knew nothing she said would change anything, and any argument she could offer was weak. Anna knew she had never been much of a princess, hardly someone capable of making big decisions and making logical arguments, but she just couldn't accept this without doing anything. How could anyone just barge in like this and take over? What would the people do? Anna wiped the tears from her eyes before they could fall.
Elsa stared at Anna for long moments, unblinkingly roving her eyes over Anna's features with a completely unreadable expression. When Anna noticed the scrutiny, she stared back into frigid blue eyes that widened slightly at the daring act. Elsa broke eye contact first. At last, she turned away from Anna and back to the King with her lips pulled down into a slight frown. "In that case, I have one more stipulation," Elsa said.
"Elsa, you've already demanded everything I have to give," the King said wearily.
"Not everything," Elsa said. As she spoke, the spear of ice pointed at the King dissolved into water to harmlessly soak into the red carpet. "There's just one thing, and if you agree, I can promise Arendelle leniency."
The King raised his head. "What would that be?"
Elsa nodded at Anna.
"I want her."
a/n: Thanks for checking this out! This story is a darker exploration of Elsa, in which she's raised in the Southern Isles, a place with different values from the peaceful Arendelle we see in the movie. Essentially, taking another look at her self-denial and eventual self-acceptance from the opposite end of the spectrum. A warning, there will be Elsanna, but not as siblings. Some fairly dark themes, though tempered by Anna's famous cheer.