The Fifth Spirit’s Pact

Featured image art by GAEAM, at: https://www.pixiv.net/en/artworks/79126197

I leaned back on my solid armchair of comfortable leather, elbows on armrests and hands clasped. “You secretly enjoy hanging around here, don’t you? Imagine that – the Snow Queen herself, lurking about our newsroom, peeking over my reporters’ shoulders to see what they’re working on, sneaking a coffee from the pantry… and, occasionally, honouring us with writing an article, should she be in the mood for it.”

The Northuldran spirit and I smiled at each other.

“You have a regular column for Anna. You’ve never asked me to do one for you. Why?” asked Elsa, leaning on the edge of the window. The late morning sun’s rays streamed through, drenching her pale face in light.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted, tilting my head as I gazed into her endlessly deep eyes. “I’ll do anything to get good stories and exclusives. And everyone hangs on to your words. But there’s something almost sacred about asking you to write something for me… to the extent that I don’t want to cheapen you. The best kind of power is the one that’s used least.”

Elsa laughed. “That’s nice of you.”

“Besides, I feel uncomfortable ordering you around, but your writing is of a standard that…”

She grinned as she anticipated my words. “It’s no good, I know. Thank you for humouring me. I was curious why Anna never misses a deadline for her column in your paper even though she’s so busy. I thought I’d give it a try.”

My office was lined with bookshelves, with a large work desk made of oak by the window, a space that Elsa was occupying. There wasn’t room for much else apart from my armchair in front of my table. I was like a guest in my own fief whenever Elsa visited, I thought to myself in amusement. Outside I could hear the mutters and hurried footsteps of my staff, reporters and editors running about and rushing in and out of our dockside building.

“It’s my privilege to publish your writing as well as Anna’s. And I don’t blame you for needing improvement. Who doesn’t? I know you’re much better at art than you are at wordsmithing, which will only come to you through more practice. In any case, I will have my editors put the heat on you when you pen a guest column or report. Not even your earth-shattering power can help you produce a decent journalistic piece.”

Somehow, things between Elsa and I seemed easier now than when she was queen. It wasn’t just her celestial appearance and free-flowing, radiant look, which was beyond beautiful. She was literally divine, exquisite to mortal eyes. But it was the Fifth Spirit’s own spirit, so to speak, that mattered more. It was the whole way she carried herself: she seemed so confident, devil-may-care… borderline royal in her bearing, although she could only be like this because she’d renounced the Crown.

When she was our monarch there was always a certain stiffness about her, even in her most relaxed moments with Anna or when she let her guard down with me. No more. If anything, I was the one chasing her now, as she flitted in and out of The AG’s offices whenever she wished.

“I’m glad the paper watched over Arendelle for so many years,” said Elsa, “and tried to find out about Anna and me even when we could never leave the palace. I…” She closed her eyes. “I must admit, it’s strange but nice to think that in the end, there really was someone looking for us. For all that time when I was confined to that durance that was my room. I only wish I could have met you and known about your newspaper long before the day of my coronation.”

“I’m afraid the story of you and your sister since the Great Thawing has been pretty much one of making up for lost time,” I said grimly.

Elsa nodded in recognition, but responded, “But here we are now, helping my little sister be the best queen she can be.”

“I was possessed by a messy maelstrom of guilt, anger, and affection for you both – from a distance. You princesses were so young.”

I rose from my armchair. A copy boy was knocking on my open door. I walked over and retrieved a tray, on which rested two porcelain cups of lemon-infused Darjeeling tea. I set the tray down on my desk and offered Elsa a cup, who took it in her slender hands.

“I hope you understand that I still despise Agnarr. I was only slightly younger than he when he made his choice to be an abuser. My memory stretches far longer than yours or Anna’s. And your father’s reputation doesn’t deserve to be so pristine. It’s only so because I was a coward back then. Arendelle’s papers had received leaks from your courtiers about your and Anna’s plight. But all of us editors obeyed the palace press embargo on pain of exile. I wasn’t born here, so I didn’t want to take the risk of losing everything. And I’ve regretted it ever since.”

A shadow of sadness flickered across Elsa’s otherwise serene face briefly. Still, I pressed on. “An injustice against you and Anna, the Diarchy, remains unresolved, even if you’ve finally become who you’re meant to be, and Anna is living her best life as our sovereign,” I hissed. “And one day, the truth will out.”

Elsa took a sip of tea and peered out the window, looking down from our third floor office on to the seaside boulevard, bustling and filled with Anna’s subjects. “Chief… is it wise? To reopen these old wounds so that we can slay ghosts?” She looked back at me, her expression one of calm sorrow. “I saw my mother, Iduna, in Ahtohallan. Forgive me for being afraid, perhaps even superstitious, but I’m not sure if I – let alone Anna – would be ready for your reporters to launch an assault on our deceased parents.”

I started, then stepped back, slightly horrified with myself. “No. No, no. I feel disgusted for even implying that. I’m sorry, Snow Queen. The memory of your parents is sacrosanct.”

Elsa put her cup down and drew near me. “I never said that, though.” She embraced me chastely, before stepping back and taking my hand. “Give me time to think,” she requested, looking up at me. “The truth is the truth. Our parents violated Anna’s and my dignity. Sooner or later, we’ll have to face that alongside our very real longing for the same people. Yet there is great power in forgiveness, and I believe that if Anna and I can truly let go and forgive everything that happened, we’ll truly have conquered the palace’s darkness.”

Her fingers tightened around my palm. “I hope you can forgive Father too.”

I hung my head. “I can try.”

“Anna has too much on her plate for now. Can we keep this conversation between us? Until the time is right?”

I nodded. “All this, this newspaper, my resources… it’s always been for you. For Anna. Of course it will be a secret. My promise to you.” My grim face slowly melted away, to be replaced with a broad beam. “For now, shall we get you to a desk to put pen to paper?”

Elsa nodded eagerly. “Where are my glasses?”

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