Featured image art by Arute (@ast05water)
“Das ist unmöglich! That’s impossible,” cried Commander Hilde in frustration, as she paced back and forth in Viola’s throne room in Keep Mundilfari. “She wants you to be Arendelle’s prime minister? That post doesn’t even exist! The executive powers of the monarchy are precisely through which your family’s will has been executed.”
“Anna’s worked out the weaknesses of our system. She wants to formalize my influence and power, make it official. But once it is, I’ll belong to her. Ministerial posts are within her right to create, even if it might dilute her authority. But to think that she’d go so far…”
Viola stared at her slender hands, slumped on her throne. “Never has a Mundilfari in the history of Arendelle been offered an official ministerial appointment. Ever.”
Viola knew better than to dismiss the significance behind Anna’s gesture. An invitation by the queen to occupy this new, highest post of the land would bind the royal and Mundilfari families together, consolidating in law and the public consciousness the ancient relationship between the two clans. Anna would give up some of her executive powers as queen, but Clan Mundilfari’s role in the life of Arendelle’s royals would be completely transformed.
No longer would Viola be a puppeteer or patron, but a partner.
Viola looked up at her paramilitary commander, her crimson gaze unsteady. “She’s cornered me, Hilde. If I refuse, I’ll be formally accused by her government of shirking her offer. And I’d have little in the way of my defence.”
“You still have immense leverage, My Lady,” insisted Hilde. “The pro-Runeard flank of senior ministers and jarls in the Great Assembly. The Snow Herald and its journalists. The nobles and corporations that support you. And, of course, my men.”
“I know. But none of them, even your armies, are strong enough to confront Anna on their own without my leadership. And if I’m Prime Minister, you’d be in service to the Crown as well.” She hung her head, vampiric eyes glimmering. “Time and again, I’ve underestimated our queen. And in just a couple of moves, she’s laid the groundwork to subordinating me under her.”
“Let’s march on Northuldra immediately. Take back the initiative from Anna,” suggested Hilde. “My death squad is prepared, even if its members haven’t had time to train your Runic Knights yet. I’m ready to slay the Snow Queen and take her power for you.”
“And force Anna’s hand? Have her initiate civil war against us at China’s behest? No,” said Viola, shaking her head. “Remember who’s behind Anna’s decision. That prince regent, Yixin, wants Anna to destroy me. Anna is trying to wriggle out of that by making me part of her government, granting me immunity.”
“But Yixin or no, we must mount an attack on the north. Please,” added the general, her voice carrying a hint of impatience and urgency. “If we don’t overrun Northuldra and slay the five elements at last, I fear…” Hilde’s serpentine eyes shone with fear. She put a hand on Viola’s shoulder. “Only by fulfilling your ancient pact to wipe out the five elements, can we free you and your bloodline from that demon’s grasp at last.”
Viola remained silent, and Hilde’s eyes slowly widened. “Unless… ”
She looked around, as if fearing someone might be overhearing them. “You’d seek Anna’s help? Even Elsa’s? To break free from Mephistopheles?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” said Viola, clasping Hilde’s hand with her own. “Who knows if either of the sisters, even the Fifth Spirit, could help me against that infernal master. Can I expunge generations of my cursed family’s servitude and borrowed power? Can I turn my back on a millennium-old promise with a mere promise from a redhead?”
Hilde snickered briefly at the dark humour, but then bit her lip, squeezing Viola’s shoulder tighter. She hated herself for standing by helplessly, waiting for orders when the Countess herself was cornered. Viola’s blood-red irises shone. “But no matter what happens…” She closed her eyes and laid her lips on Hilde’s hand, giving her a light kiss. “Stay with me until whatever demise meets me. You promised.”
Hilde’s yellow eyes glimmered. “I’m yours until the very end. I’m your blade, your rifle, your warship. I’m your greatest weapon.”
Viola rose, sighing. “I’m so weak,” she said suddenly. “I must be the weakest Mundilfari head in centuries. Perhaps my heart was never in obeying Mephistopheles for long. Not if I gave up Muspelheim so easily. Not if I let Anna into my heart so willingly. Not if I’ve been holding myself back from crushing the Northuldra. And in the end… ”
She turned to Hilde, smiling slightly. “There are those, like that Master Michael gentleman, and Lord Nahir al-Adil, who’ve appealed to my loyalty to the Crown. My resources… all of this – ” she gestured around the empty throne room. ” – is supposed to be for Anna. And they may be right. I’ve only done what I felt was best for the kingdom. But if I can do so while aligning my will to Anna’s, while also finally freeing myself from him – ”
“Say no more, My Lady,” said Hilde instantly. Her usually impassive face broke into a smile. “You’re still a Mundilfari. If Her Majesty’s extended her hand, then take it. Whether you ask me to march against Anna – or for her – I’ll always obey you.”
She snapped her jackboots together and saluted Viola, who finally smiled, her previously torn expression now one of relative clarity.
It was the most random, yet most extraordinary and exhilarating letter Anna had ever received from Viola to date. She’d been asleep in her study, head plonked on her mahogany table, when a courtier knocked on her door. “Your Majesty? You have a letter. It has the Mundilfari seal, so I thought you mightn’t want to wait until tomorrow.”
“Blargh. Hey.” Goofily wiping the drool off her chin, Anna groggily took the note and blinked sleepily at it. Unlike Viola’s usual letters, which were long and eloquent, this one was just one line, reading only:
Anna’s eyes shot open, all sleep gone from them. Shooting from her chair, she bolted out of the room, zooming past the shocked courtier who’d delivered the letter. “I must go to Keep Mundilfari at once!” she shouted at him.
“But it’s two days’ ride, and it’s the middle of the night!”
“Wake up the coachman, please. I’m going now!”
The queen sprinted down the corridors and toward the stables near the courtyard, to her horse-drawn carriage. She was panting, rapidly going out of breath, and her heartbeat was pounding in her ears.
She almost tripped over her own shoes, but she clumsily scrambled back up and continued to run, her aqua eyes shining.
Her heart was singing.
“I’m coming, Vi,” she whispered breathlessly. “I’m coming to you, my Countess.”