It was late morning. The sun was up and bright, though Anna’s mood was down and dark. The queen and Honeymaren were at the table of their private study, the morning light filtering through their windows, when the Snow Queen’s form glided in like some celestial creature. Elsa does this all the time, thought Anna. She was always lost, staring at that gossamer trail of gentle ice, until Elsa snapped her out of her meandering thoughts.
“Thanks for calling this emergency meeting. Thanks for being so brave to talk to Maren and me about what’s been going on with you,” Elsa said to Anna kindly. Despite her exhaustion, Anna beamed.
As Elsa scooted up to Anna, Maren sat across from them, eyes uncertain. Maybe she was wondering if Anna was angry with her for revealing so much in her column. But Anna wanted to tell her that she wasn’t, and indeed felt really guilty for roping her into this fight with the Mundilfaris, whom anyone barely knew, truly knew.
Well, Maren would know them soon enough.
“Thanks, Elsa,” said Anna. Elsa was always like that. First thing upon laying eyes on her little sister: a word of encouragement, a gesture of warmth. No matter the context or circumstance. Anna turned to Maren, who was her most valuable political ally and a diplomatic godsend. “I never wanted to keep any secrets from you, especially not about my nightmares of Elsa dying at the Mundilfaris’ hands. She was being burned at the stake, like a wise woman of the medieval era,” she said sadly.
Maren lowered her head, grimacing.
“I’ve just had such a hard time dealing with those dreams, that I didn’t want to burden you with more than I already have. You know, turning up at your place in the middle of the night and all,” said the queen.
“Those are mere dreams, Anna. Perhaps they’re telling you more about yourself, or your political rivals, than something as open as my ultimate fate,” responded Elsa quietly. “It’s important to be open with Maren. She’s here for you as well as me.”
“It’s alright, Elsa,” said Maren. Her eyes shone with love for the sisters. She wanted in on Anna’s fight. In fact, it would be a betrayal of the growing tenderness between her and Anna to not let her join. “Still, it’s staggering to have learned about this clan, and their hidden hand through Arendellian history.” The Head Liaison of Northuldra-Arendelle Relations reached out with an open hand at the sister-queens, and they stared at Maren as she clenched it into a strong fist.
“We don’t need to take Anna’s nightmares literally to accept that the Mundilfaris are a serious threat. From what she told me, they’ve pulled the strings of Arendellian politics since the founding of the kingdom. Now their first serious challenger has arrived in the form of Anna’s reign. We’ve caught them by surprise with our tenacity, but they’re probably about to get very serious.”
“Starting with this, Elsa. Did you hear? The patriarch of the Mundilfaris died of a sudden heart attack,” said Anna grimly, pointing to the morning spread of The Arendelle Guardian on the table. “As if that weren’t enough of a shock, an emissary from their estate presented me with a personal invitation to Mayer Mundilfari’s funeral. It was unsigned. Why would they want me there, after all the public spats we’ve had? Is it an answer to my open letter to them?”
“It does sound suspicious,” agreed Maren. “I can only imagine it’s because the invitation has been extended by someone strong and confident enough to own that call.”
Her chestnut eyes narrowed. “In other words, the Mundilfaris’ presumptive heir or successor.”
“Good call,” Anna replied, shivering. “I’m not sure I’m keen to find out who it is.”
After all the battles I went through against my grandfather’s supporters in the Great Assembly, that ridiculous attempt by some senior ministers to limit Elsa’s visits to the palace, my throwing down the gauntlet with Maren’s appointment as my top diplomat, she thought, rubbing her chin. The common thread connecting all these political struggles I’ve gone through? It was them. It was always them.
“Clan Mundilfari. A name I haven’t heard in a long time,” said Elsa, her eyes shimmering colours that seemed to reflect right back into the core of Anna’s heart. “Lord Mayer was our grandfather’s patrons. He sponsored a third of the dam that he built. Have you read Father’s diaries? He was terrified of Mayer and hid Mother’s origins from the family until he married her and had us.”
“I know,” said Anna bitterly. “Sure, it was too late for anyone to stop the union, but that didn’t discourage Mayer from swaggering right into this palace, standing before our parents, and demanding that they divorce. For the crime of loving a woman of Northuldran blood. He said it to them, right in our faces. Mother cried for quite a while after that.” She glanced at Maren. “That’s what I meant when I told you that the hatred of this noble house is ancient, predating even our kingdom.”
Maren shook her head in disbelief. “These guys sound crazy – how could they treat the royal family like this?”
“The titles and privileges granted to them over the centuries are so numerous that Anna and I have lost count,” said Elsa. “You’re right, Honey – they’ve always looked down on all but the ‘purest’ of the clans with Viking heritage. There are barely any left that can be traced directly to the age of the Norse longships, but the legends of the Mundilfaris have endured to this day.”
“The editors of the Big Three newspapers are also meeting at the Nokk Club,” said Anna, hands clasped in thought. “An ideological war for the hearts and minds of my citizens is underway. Whether you’re aligned with The Arendelle Guardian, the Fjord Times, or the Mundilfari-owned Snow Herald – all the journos, nobles, ministers, and court gossipers are agreed that this funeral will be critical in shaping how the Crown and Clan Mundilfari move forward.”
Her aqua eyes glinted. “Just a few years ago, no one would have thought that the balance of power among Arendelle’s political factions would hinge on the relationship between Northuldra and Arendelle. I guess that’s the precipice where I, and the Mundilfaris, have brought us to.”
Elsa stood up. “It’s decided, then. If you’ve decided to accept their invitation, you have Maren’s and my full support. Neither Maren or I can accompany you to the Mundilfari estate, so we can only hope for good news upon your return.”
Maren followed suit, standing and nodding vigorously. Anna’s smile widened, her body visibly relaxing. Elsa opened her arms, and Maren and Anna sunk into them. Their cheeks touched each other’s. “Be careful, Anna,” whispered Elsa, breath warm on the queen’s face.
“I will,” promised Anna, hugging Maren and Elsa tighter to her. Her gaze betrayed renewed strength and enthusiasm. “I can’t wait to stare down my political nemesis. And we will talk. This kingdom’s destiny depends on it.”