The Snow Queen’s column in today’s morning edition is about Anna’s recent state ball for Queen Victoria in the castle’s Great Hall. Elsa’s op-eds are published whenever she visits The AG’s newsroom.
Quite a night, wouldn’t you say?
It certainly brought back memories for me. Especially memories of coronation night, the first ball I held in my name. I still remember how the new role of queen was slowly crushing me inside, especially when the memories of Mother and Father’s deaths were so fresh.
Last night was different.
As I watched Anna greet our many guests, I was so proud of how she was able to make small talk, flatter, fish, and perform all the kinds of social lubrication that a charismatic and networked monarch must do. The Great Hall of the castle was fitted sumptuously in dark green, black, and purple to match the occasion. British and Arendellian flags welcomed our kingdom’s power blocks. There was General Mattias and his military friends, mingling with Kristoff and the executive directors of Bjorgman House. “Chief,” Anna’s and my editor, was speaking quietly to her rival press barons, the owners of the Fjord Times and the Snow Herald. Ministers and jarls from our grandfather’s era (the faction responsible for many of Anna’s headaches) and the Bishop who crowned me queen were huddled in their own corner. Lord Palmerston, Victoria’s foreign secretary, was talking animatedly with the Duke of Weselton, who had grown considerably more mellow toward Anna and me over the years.
And, of course, at the centre of it all: our guest of honour, the resplendently garbed British monarch herself, who Anna and I entertained for much of the night.
All of Arendellian high society was here, princely warlords of their diverse fiefdoms, in all their Viking ambition and greed, to pay homage to my little sister and her “friendly rival,” Queen Victoria.
I was happy to stand by Anna’s side, with many of my former subjects coming over to catch up with me. Some had even previously served under me, like ministers, jarls, and household attendants. I talked briefly with Kai, our family’s head courtier, before turning my attention to Queen Victoria. We spoke little about diplomatic affairs, although I’m sure Anna already had had a word with her at their private dinner the night before this ball. We mainly shared nuggets about our kingdoms’ oddities and cultural customs. Cute anecdotes that would be easy for both parties to remember with amusement and fondness.
Through the dancing, the elegant music of Anna’s personal pianist and string quartet, and the delicious mix of Arendellian seafood and salmon and hearty British fare (chocolate, cake, and wine abounded), eyes finally fell on a Northuldran smile: Honeymaren herself, looking so beautiful in her black evening gown, the first time she’d ever worn formal wear. She’d lost her ponytail for the night, allowing her dark locks to flow freely… like me. She rolled her bare shoulders and looked around, supremely confident. The hall almost simultaneously fell silent, even the musicians.
“Excuse me,” muttered Anna, moving away as Victoria’s gaze darted briefly at Maren. The string quartet and pianist, as if on cue, began playing again, and the conversation and dancing resumed. Anna took Maren by the arm and led her to her throne, where Victoria and I stood. She smoothly introduced her new right hand, who stumbled slightly in her black heels – she was adorably unused to them. “Vic, this is Honeymaren Nattura, the new Head Liaison of Northuldra-Arendelle Relations. Maren, this is none other than Queen Victoria.”
Maren grinned awkwardly at me, and I beamed back. “How do I look?”
“Stunning,” I said, without hesitation.
Maren bowed and took Victoria’s outstretched hand, her lips pressing gently against the British queen’s skin. “Your Majesty.”
Maren’s eyes did not falter as Victoria waved her fan, sizing up the new arrival. “Miss Nattura,” came Victoria’s lilting voice. “A most extraordinary lady you must be, to be privy to the fears and hopes of no less than one, but three queens.” Victoria looked at Anna and me pointedly.
“I suppose I’m a trustworthy creature,” said Maren, smiling without mirth at Victoria. “Amidst a world of predatory empires…”
“How does a tribeswoman from the middle of nowhere rise to become my new friend’s de facto foreign secretary?” Victoria looked over at Lord Palmerston. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be talking with me, but with your counterpart, the viscount.”
“Anna told me that you wrote a letter to her, saying that she doesn’t need to approach Palmerston to talk to you. And where Anna goes, I go. I go where Elsa goes too, for that matter.” said Maren, matching Victoria’s challenge smoothly and confidently despite not having been to a single occasion like this in her life. “By the way, I thought I’d make a tastefully late entrance, Anna. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I bet you just had problems putting on the dress,” said Anna, as they clasped each other’s hands. “What do you think?” she asked proudly, gesturing around. “You’ve been in the Great Hall before, but not like this.”
“No. Last time I was in here, we were negotiating the grand alliance with Zaria and Chathoan. I’ve never been to such an amazing party,” said Maren, her chestnut eyes wandering over me. I allowed her to ogle me for a bit longer, before putting a stop to her mischief by taking Anna’s fingers. “Victoria, Maren, if you’d excuse us,” I said politely. “I’d just like some fresh air and to speak with my sister for a while.”
Anna was quick to respond. “Of course, Elsa. Maren: entertain Vic, please. Don’t let her get bored. We’ll be right back.”
Victoria snickered. “Are you sure it’s wise to leave the two of us alone?”
“Quit whining,” said Maren bluntly, as they stared each other. “You’ll like me just fine.”
As the party continued into the late night, Anna and I stood out on the balcony, the same one where she “fell in love with” Hans. Perhaps in another life we’d have a good laugh about such a disastrous romance, but given how he betrayed her, I was never in a laughing mood when I recalled this painful memory.
“Brave new world, huh?” muttered Anna, leaning on the stone balustrade. She took off her crown and rubbed her eyes tiredly. “What do you think, Elsa?”
“Of how Maren looks tonight?”
“I know you think she’s gorgeous. I mean Vic. This whole thing with Britain.”
“I agree with you, Anna,” I replied, more seriously. “We’re on uncharted territory here. This brave new world is one of industry, of capital and business. Of civic leaders like chief, and militaries with reach and power we’ve never imagined.” I pursed my lips. “Victoria must be seeing similar changes over in Britain, according to what she’s said about the changes in British society.”
“Yes,” said Anna quietly, looking out into the night at the quiet fjord beyond the kingdom. “I’m going to write about my experience with Vic in my column for the paper. As much as I enjoyed talking to her, I’m mindful of the fact that this is a formidable lady who has imperial ambitions. It’s my job to ensure that Britain stays our friend, and not an adversary or potential colonizer. Vic is the sovereign of a country far larger than ours, with a fearsome navy and a global reach. They’re colonial invaders and occupiers, no way around that.”
“I agree,” I replied grimly. “If Arendelle fell to any external enemy, Northuldra would look like fresh meat to imperial powers like Britain and others. The spirits themselves – the Earth Giants, Nokk, Gale, and even little Bruni – would be forced to wage war against invading human forces.”
“I swear that such a scenario will never happen,” said Anna, clasping my hands. She gazed at me with years upon years of accumulated affection. “My promise to you, Elsa. Northuldra and Arendelle are one, as we decided when you crowned me.”
I nodded, running my knuckles gently along her cheek. “Thank you.”
“I’m glad you’re here tonight. I’m glad you and Maren are with me so that I can be strong in Vic’s presence.”
“Of course I’d come and support you, Your Majesty,” I replied. “It’s one of your many big nights.”
Anna giggled, letting go and dancing away. “Stop it. It sounds weird when you say that.”
I grinned at her as my hand twirled, conjuring a snowball to throw at her. She squealed in delight at my invitation. “I declare war on you,” she chortled, dodging my hit. We had a snowball fight right then and there, totally forgetting about the ball inside and the fact that Maren and Victoria were watching us in amusement, just beyond the window and door.
If Britain was going to enforce Pax Britannica through global empire, then Anna and I would protect our joined realms of Northuldra and Arendelle though our own vision for peace: Pax Arendellia.