Chapter Three: A Pact with the Devil

Featured banner art by Angie @ Naruto Fanzine (@AngieLaurasArt)

Part of the Arendelle: Occult spinoff series

*

To Her Majesty Queen Anna of Arendelle,

We have watched with horror as your own subject, Countess Viola Mundilfari, amassed her own private army and directed her general, Commander Hilde, to raze the Southern Isles in apparent revenge for a clandestine circle of aristocrats that were trying to seize the Arendellian Crown. The seizure of your throne would have resulted in a well-connected power base for these nobles, who would then have surely turned rogue against the very monarchs they owed loyalty to.

Among this self-proclaimed Conclave was Prince Hans, whom you and Viola are most well-acquainted with. While he deserves all your contempt, Hilde Von Altheim’s razing of his country has sent ripples of fear through countries that once would have looked to Arendelle as a friend or ally. This is surely detrimental to your stated goal of building a grand alliance and resisting predations by imperial powers.

There are three more Conclave members, each one belonging to one of our states. We will happily extradite them to you, and you would be free to punish them as you please. This would mean an immense diplomatic victory for you and your government, and conversely, inflict great humiliation on us for our role in allowing things to have descended into this farce. To us, it is a small price to pay to rectify the crimes of the Conclave and restore normal relations with you.

But if you refuse even this, our generous concession, all three of us will be forced to declare war on Arendelle for fear of Hilde’s revenge against our own people. That would mean horrific, unspeakable loss of life, and perhaps even the destruction of your kingdom.

Therefore, we beg you: accept our terms, and ensure that Viola is also willing to agree to them.

Co-signed,

His Majesty Emperor Daoguang of the Great Qing

His Majesty Sultan Abdulmejid I of the Ottoman Empire

Her Majesty Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

*

Dressed in her royal attire Anna never imagined that she’d be standing in Keep Mundilfari like this, her kingdom on the brink of war with three mighty empires. Armed conflict with any one of them would already have spelled a diplomatic, political, and military crisis. For Arendelle to potentially take on the Chinese Great Qing, the Ottomans, and the British Empire all at once, well… that was suicidal to the point of absurdity.

Of course, that was what she was here to do tonight. To put an end to this sorry affair and close off any chance for war.

Countess Viola sat before the standing queen on the Mundilfari throne, a twisted, stone version of the more austere Arendellian throne in Anna’s palace. She folded one leg on top of the other, resting her tilted head on her hand, which in turn was on the cold armrest. “I trust you’ve seen the letter by the three heads of state,” said Anna tersely. “I had it delivered to you immediately after I was finished with it.”

“And I like it!” crowed Viola, her red eyes gleaming. “It feels good for the great powers of the world to finally accept that they cannot have their way with us, that they can’t toy with us.” She smiled smugly. “When I told you that I am a loyal servant of the Crown, I meant it.”

“But that’s as far as you can go, Vi,” said Anna resolutely. “After you wrote me and told me about the plans of this horrible Conclave, I was happier than anyone else to know that you’d stood up for me, that you’d put yourself between them and me, and almost lost your life in an assassination attempt because of it.” Anna took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here in the Keep to help you.”

“No,” said Viola softly, standing up from her throne and descending the stone dais, light filtering through the castle stone wall. She stopped before Anna, staring into her aqua eyes. “I’m glad you didn’t see me taking the lives of others.”

“Look, if Commander Hilde continues to attack London, Constantinople, or Peking like he did the Southern Isles, we face a triple declaration of war,” said Anna. “And state-backed or not, you and I have a common interest in not letting Arendelle destroyed and carved up, small as we already are.”

Viola smiled. “Which is why Hilde won’t be doing any such thing. She’s currently encamped near the Southern Isles, and with this promise by those three states to hand over the Conclave’s members, I can rest easy knowing that I was able to wreak revenge and see for myself how… international our conflict over Northuldra has become, dear Anna.”

Anna sighed, looking exhausted. “I momentarily feared that you might want to continue your rampage in my name… and draw us into an unwinnable conflict. I know I can’t control you or your private armies, and that is something that I won’t accept. But I’m glad that our interests align sometimes. Maybe we can start there.”

Viola raised a hand, running a knuckle along Anna’s chin. “I could have used the Conclave as leverage for my campaign against Northuldra. But I thought to myself, what better victory than to not only remove the threat to your throne, but wrap it up in a glorious diplomatic win for you?”

Anna peered at Viola. “You’re a curious one,” she murmured. “Once more, you’ve gone out of your way to help me again. To protect me.”

“I never said I was the logical one, like Hilde. And you have her to thank, by the way, for scaring China, the Ottomans, and Britain into submission.” She smirked. “I want us to continue this dance of ours for a long, long time, sweet and dear queen.”

“As long as you have your sights set on Northuldra, this dance will definitely go on,” whispered Anna, gritting her teeth as Viola trailed a mischievous, curious finger on her neck. “I’ll always stand between you and Elsa, and somehow make you relinquish your claim to the forest.”

“Perhaps you will, and perhaps you won’t,” murmured Viola, staring at Anna. “Whatever move you make next will be interesting, as will anything I do.

“But for now – dinner.”

*

In the end, a great triumph was claimed by the Arendellian monarchy and government. The official story, as circulated in the global presses, was such: that a group of rogue nobles called the Conclave had tried to subvert and even usurp Anna’s rule. The queen of this small country led a mighty army against one of the Conclave’s members, Prince Hans, in a bloody battle that led to a treaty signed between Arendelle and the three powers of Great Britain, China, and the Ottoman Caliphate: the three remaining co-conspirators were extradited to Arendelle to face justice, which in Anna’s judgement was exile and enforced isolation.

The great powers that proposed the treaty were, according to this narrative, utterly humiliated. It wasn’t just a David versus Goliath scenario. It was as if David had killed the giant warrior, and beaten two of his brothers for good measure.

The truth that future generations would learn from history teachers is, of course, more complicated. Despite the malevolent intentions of the Conclave, it was Arendelle that was the aggressor against the Southern Isles – more specifically, an extralegal and paramilitary force under an Arendellian noblewoman. The empires that proposed the extradition treaty weren’t the only ones who stood to benefit from ending the escalating conflict. Queen Anna had had to personally go to Keep Mundilfari to convince the noblewoman to call off her rampage, for the sake of avoiding a multi-front war that would have surely destroyed Arendelle.

What an amusing little twist,” mused the raven to itself, as it hopped by the stone windowsill, its cold eyes matching Viola’s disdainful gaze. “The ways by which you’ve enjoyed the near-limitless power bequeathed to you are most unusual.”

“I’ll conquer Northuldra my way, but I will never hurt Anna if I can help it,” said Viola, hating her meetings with this demonic power. “I’m torturing her enough with my designs on Elsa.”

You never ended up summoning my power to aid you against the Conclave.”

“I didn’t need to. The Conclave was no match for me,” smirked Viola. “I had my wits about me, and Hilde, of course. She’s as frightening as you are, frankly.”

I’m sure there’s some truth to that.” The raven flapped its wings and began to take flight, although the voice remained maddeningly inside Viola’s head. “I’m glad that Anna’s love for you – and your love for her – hasn’t blinded you to your ultimate objective.”

Viola stared outside the window with her shining crimson eyes, out to the sunset descending over the mountains. It was during these moments that she felt unexpectedly vulnerable, without a friend like Hilde or even a “frenemy” like Anna with her. Perhaps it was because this sanctum high above the Keep was reserved only for the Mundilfari leader, an accursed shrine room that was burned into her consciousness since the night she claimed her birthright.

The glory – and the loneliness – of it all was hers: and hers alone.

*

ARENDELLE: OCCULT

– END –

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