By HM Queen Anna
It happened again last night, but more vividly.
The dream is always the same. I’m in the enchanted forest, running for my life from what I think are the giants of the Earth Spirit. I’m trying to lead them to the dam – but when I get there, I see only a clearing, with Elsa tied to a stake, like some horrific, medieval play or re-enactment. I turn back to look at the giants, only to see a ruddy, repulsive face of my grandfather. Bewildered, I look back where Elsa is, and her pyre is surrounded by hooded, shadowy figures, who use torches to set the wood and her gossamer, shimmering robes alight. I scream and run at the burning pyre, but no matter how my legs sprint, I don’t even get close. In agony Elsa looks at me, her kind eyes full of love, and I turn to shriek at Runeard’s ugly mug. But he’s gone. Only the hooded scumbags remain, who’ve surrounded me and blocked me from Elsa’s view. One of these cultists lifts up his cowl, and I recognise him as one of the scions of the Mundilfari noble family, an ancient Viking clan and, in our day in Arendelle, owner-editors of the Snow Herald.
His face is vague, but his malevolent grin is apparent as I hear the fire whooshing, embers crackling, and Elsa screaming. Hot tears are rolling down my face as I fall on my knees, begging him to spare her. His words are the only thing I remember before my agony ends.
“We’ve been here since the Baltic Crusades, little queen. We drove out the nature spirits and made mountains of their devotees’ carcasses. The appearance of the Fifth Spirit has only strengthened our resolve to protect the Old Ways. Let your Northuldran sister – born a witch – die a witch.”
Last night, in the early hours of the morning, I woke up in a cold sweat, rubbing my head and crying quietly, rage and frustration roiling in me. Kristoff was right there beside me, and he was so attentive I didn’t need to wake him up: he noticed my tears and my shaking body and held me tight for a long time. I murmured that I wanted to pop down to the Northuldran embassy. Kristoff, total darling and understanding sweetheart that he was, just told me to put on an extra coat because it was cold outside. I hurried out of the castle and run-walked to the embassy, knocking on the door erratically. I heard footsteps rushing down the wooden stairs within. Maren was at the door in a matter of minutes, in her lime-green nightclothes and her dark hair draping down her shoulders.
“Anna, baby!” she said in consternation, her sleepy brown eyes wide in shock as she saw me panting before her. “It’s three in the morning!”
I peered at her bashfully. “I’m sorry for doing this to you. I just need someone I can trust. To talk to.”
Maren stared at me, her eyes observing me and taking in my sorry state. “You look awful. Come in.”
The embassy office wasn’t big: there was a cozy reception and fireplace, bookshelves, and three desks by the windows for Maren’s assistants. She took my hand and led me up the stairs, to the second level where her quarters were. It was a loft home, the ceilings slanting down on us intimately and comfortably. The room was otherwise spacious and open, with a work desk, a pantry, and a large bed. Maren had decorated the walls with Northuldran patterns and laid a large, comfy rug on the wooden floor. There were two seats and a small table by the windows overlooking the quiet streets of the kingdom. I plonked myself down in one of the chairs, and Maren draped a shawl over me – her own shawl, with a different pattern to Mother’s. “Talk to me, Anna,” she requested, kindly but firmly.
I briefly pondered whether I should tell her what I had dreamt. I could barely bring myself to recall it, so I decided not to foist it on her. Instead, I looked up at her, my voice shaking. “From the moment Elsa crowned me queen, I wanted to be ambitious, to make a difference in how this kingdom faces up to its past and how it’ll survive in the modern world. I don’t believe in being meek, or I might as well give the crown to someone else.
“But… I can’t help thinking I’ve awakened some dark forces too. Dormant ones. Forces that Mother tried to keep away from me when I was a child.”
I continued to stare at Maren, panic rising in me as I suddenly wondered if the Mundilfari family was keeping an eye on her too. Had I endangered her? “These forces want nothing but ill for Northuldra, for Elsa, for the tribes. My dreams make that clear to me. I can’t – ” I choked up, and Maren just remained silent, her eyes steady and compassionate. “I think I’ve picked a fight with some people that deeply hate you… hate us.”
I buried my face in my hands. “I mean, this isn’t just bigotry or xenophobia. It’s a malevolence far older, viler than even my grandfather. Their hate is ancient. From a time before Arendelle itself.”
A tense silence passed between us for a few minutes.
“It was only a dream, Your Majesty,” Maren reminded me softly. I blinked. She never calls me that, and I don’t want her to, but I realized she was trying to help me regain myself. “It sounds like you’ve been grappling with something horrific. Whatever foe we’re talking about, I admit, they sound pretty damn terrifying. And one day, if I can be direct, Anna – I expect you to be a bit more specific, so we can confront them together. Can you do that for me?” she asked, lowering herself on her knees so she could look up at me.
I nodded sheepishly. “It’s the least I could do for barging into your home and blubbering about my nightmare.”
Maren chuckled. “Deal. But for now… here, in the real world, your position has never been stronger. Kristoff is with you. I’m with you. And up north, Elsa’s happily asleep under the stars, resting her head against the Water Spirit’s body, and the Fire Spirit cozied up in her hair, snoring away. She’s safe.”
She put her hand on mine, her warmth so reassuring and comforting. I squeezed her fingers gratefully, almost too hard. I met her gaze, smiling shakily. Encouraged, she reached up and cupped my cheek with her hand. I exhaled loudly as she stroked me and I closed my eyes, savouring her touch.
She smelled like Northuldran herbs. Like peppermint, but crisper.
“I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt why Elsa brought us together,” whispered Maren. “Just as I told Elsa she belonged in Northuldra, I want you to know that I belong here with you.”
“Good, because I need you,” I blurted like an idiot, and began to cry.
“So here I am.” She moved to embrace me, and I melted, letting her comfort me as I sobbed away the pain of my dream in her arms.
As of now, I’m still in her home, finishing this article up by candlelight. She’s asleep on her bed, and I should probably join her soon. Dear reader, I pride myself on being open and personal in this column, but I haven’t felt so vulnerable and raw in a long time. Forgive me this tale, but I have to be honest with Maren. I’m sure chief will be pretty shocked to read this when I hand it in to her tomorrow.
Signing off, your friend and servant.