The Great Assembly, Arendelle’s parliament, met at a nondescript block of three-storey structures that line a cobblestone street, a short walk from the hillier face of Arendelle. Within this block of semi-detached buildings were two halls, which made up the House of Ministers and House of Jarls. There were offices for Anna’s public servants and an elegant restaurant for members of both houses to dine, exchange information, and host journalists.
Daily affairs were relatively simple. At seven thirty in the morning, the roll call in the lower house would begin, with ministers taking their seats by eight to debate the day’s legislation. Meanwhile, the House of Jarls (made of Arendelle’s nobility) would scrutinize bills by the ministers, sending those that the aristocracy deemed satisfactory to Anna to sign, or redirecting them back to the ministers for further refinement.
The Great Assembly would be a hive of politicking until midday. Jarls and ministers then breaked for lunch at the restaurant or the Nokk Club, before regrouping for the afternoon’s personal meetings with the queen. Those who hadn’t scheduled any meetings with the monarchy were free to speak to reporters or go home and work on the next round of parliamentary debates. Such was the daily agenda that occupied both the queen and her public servants. This morning was supposed to be Viola’s first time experiencing this world that she once controlled from the shadows, but was now actively involved in.
She was nowhere to be found.
Garbed in her stylishly understated blazer, green dress, and Northuldra sash, Anna had been waiting at the central podium, where the monarch stood for roll call, for over fifteen minutes now. The ministers seated around her, most of them middle-aged to old men and women, were getting restless, murmuring to each other.
Where was their new Prime Minister?
Anna bit her lip, her hands fidgeting. She looked around nervously. “Please, everyone, just wait a bit longer,” she called. “I’m sure she’s just trying to find her way here.”
“Our records show that she has at least three large properties under her name here,” called a matronly minister, her brow wrinkled in disapproval.
“Three stately houses, to be precise – all tax-free,” said another well-dressed minister loudly. “Her family has always enjoyed reminding Arendelle’s government of how the laws never applied to them.”
“How hard would it have been for the Countess to arrive from Keep Mundilfari and stay in one of her fancy homes in preparation for today?” asked another skeptically. “Does she even take us seriously?”
“She does, I promise,” insisted Anna. She glanced at Maren, who was seated near the throne. Maren shrugged sadly.
“I haven’t seen any carriage or horse arrive, Anna.”
Anna sighed. She could only hope that Viola hadn’t abandoned her on her first day.
The night before, at four in the morning
Dawn was approaching, the sun slowly creeping up behind Jotunheimen Mountains. Viola hadn’t been able to sleep all night. She had reached the sanctum, that small chamber at the top of her castle tower. She stood there, staring at the primitive altar used by Mundilfari jarls down the ages.
“I’ve always hated this room. I was here the night I killed my family. I come here every time as your supplicant. Every time I’m here to pay homage, you humiliate me and remind me of my bondage to you.” Viola smiled bitterly. “Consider my surrender to Anna my desperate attempt to escape you, Mephistopheles.”
She performed the bloodletting ritual as usual: gliding the ceremonial dagger across her palm and allowing several drops of blood to summon the demon that had controlled Clan Mundilfari since the Holy Roman Empire. The familiar raven perched by the stone ledge of the open window. It fluttered its feathered wings, smouldering cosmic eyes gazing balefully at her.
“You’ve broken our pact by allying with Anna and giving up your claim to Northuldra. I need the power of the Five Elements. I must consume the Snow Queen’s spirit,” echoed the demon’s voice.
Viola said nothing, staring right back at the raven.
“You’ve forfeited your honour as a Mundilfari. Your family was supposed to serve me until Northuldra was mine.”
“My family and I earned our power through all the pain and perversion you put us through,” replied Viola, red eyes flashing. “I’m done poisoning myself with hate on your behalf. Clan Mundilfari will be greater still without your… patronage. You no longer have my unquestioned loyalty. I’m breaking this cycle you’ve trapped us in for centuries.”
Before the Countess could resist, an invisible, terrifying force flung her against the wall, and she felt her back slamming painfully against the stone. She gasped, winded, as she fell to the floor, but before she could even scramble back up, she was immediately thrown against the altar by Mephistopheles’ dark will. Eyes wide in shock, Viola screamed in agony, the rock crushing into her frail body. She could hear her own bones breaking. But Mephistopheles wasn’t done tormenting her yet, and she hurtled up and felt herself smashing against the low ceiling. Only then did the demon release her, and her limp body fell, crashing painfully onto the stone altar before tumbling off.
“I could end your life here and now, girl, but it’ll be amusing to watch you struggle to break free from me. My very presence saturates you and your home. How can you even help your queen with a straight face?”
“I hate you,” moaned Viola, who was lying prone on the cold floor, at the altar’s base. She wheezed as she clutched her midsection, her elegant clothes smeared with dirt, dust, and blood. She could feel several cracked ribs, and a couple of her spinal discs had been fractured. Her face was twisted in pain and helpless fury. “I hate you so much.”
Mephistopheles’ echoing voice began to laugh. The raven cawed.
“I could destroy your precious Hilde with a thought, and Anna’s eternal optimism can’t save you. I’m the only true family you’ll ever have. I play with your hopes and dreams, my daughter. I can be gentle, then hard – and now I am hard. I reward and punish you, rebuke and forgive you. My pleasure is of a father of broken daughters. My power is over your soul. Forever!”
Viola’s eyesight was blurry as she felt herself losing consciousness. “I’m so sorry, Anna,” she gritted, blood spraying from her trembling mouth. Her world was going black, and she desperately wanted to see the queen’s smile, her warm eyes and slightly goofy grin. She was such a fool, Viola thought to herself, as she realized that she loved Anna as deeply as she hated her infernal master.
Her dark brown hair spilling messily across her sweating face, she blinked unsteadily, mouthing a defiant profanity at Mephistopheles’ avatar, before her eyelids fell over her crimson eyes.
Then, she fainted.
Anna sat dejectedly in her study, hands tapping uneasily at the edge of her oak desk. The new Prime Minister never turned up. She was supposed to have joined Anna at the inaugural session of parliament, where all the ministers and jarls would have applauded her arrival. But Viola never came. Some of Anna’s ministerial allies were quite upset at this absence. The creation of this post was a once-in-a-generation constitutional move. How could Viola have insulted them on day one like this?
Yet Anna wasn’t buying it. Something felt off. “No one misses the first day of their new job unless something’s going on,” she reassured herself.
She raised her head and looked worriedly out her window at the beautiful sunset. She let out another sigh. She had hoped that after a long day of work, Viola would be here in her study, or perhaps on the balcony of the palace, looking at this very twilight and sharing a drink with her.
She suddenly wanted Elsa to be here.
“Oh, Vi… where are you?”