Featured image art by Arute (@ast05water)
There’s an old Mundilfari legend that the clan heads tell their children.
Long ago, when the ancient Greek city-states and Troy still stood, there was a dragon that lived in the mountains, guarding a colossal mound of precious gold. One night, as the dragon slept in her cavernous grotto, by some enchanted miracle, the gold transmuted into a beautiful young woman. The dragon was bewitched by this girl of gold. She swore an oath to always protect her from adventurers and assailants, and the alchemic girl also promised to stay with and love the dragon forever. They never forgot their oath to each other: even when the girl of gold’s distant descendants swore a much darker, infernal pact with the great manipulator of mortals, Mephisto, who hungered for the power of the nature spirits.
Yes, that girl of gold’s progeny through the millennia would become what we know as the Mundilfari clan. And the dragon’s? They came to call themselves “Altheim.” The rest of their past – in particular, their encounter with the royal family of Arendelle – is history.
It’s only a myth, one that didn’t even appear in circulation until the 14th Century. But however accurate – or outlandish – the folk memory and family lore might be, this much is true. There are always two – the guarded and the guardian. The protected and the protector. The treasure – the girl of gold – and the dragon. The Mundilfari and the Altheim.
For the last few minutes, all Hilde had been able to see was red – a complete blanket of blood and rage, shrouding her eyesight from the women she was supposed to be entertaining for dinner. A spar with the queen, which she had won with ease, escalated into this: the summoning of her lycanthropic power, which she had full control over, to crush Elsa. As a werewolf, she barely remembered why they’d even ended up in this fight – all she wanted was the Fifth Spirit’s blood on her snout.
Then she felt the sharp sting of silver – the only substance that could hurt her – gliding across her bosom. It was like her chest was on fire. She felt the world around her blur as she nearly lost consciousness, but then snapped back into alertness as she heard someone’s voice. It wasn’t just anyone’s voice, but hers.
“Your Majesty! Elsa! Now’s the time!”
I recognize that voice, thought Hilde, still reeling from the searing pain across her chest. Indeed, I know that voice all too well. Such was the agony she felt from this mere cut that her world finally began to return to colour, and she could see more clearly again. She fluttered her eyelids, and the first sight was none other than Vi’s penetrating, imperious, charming red gaze.
“Oh… it’s you. My Lady.”
Hilde could feel her fangs shrinking and her snout disappearing as her reforming lips began to be able to articulate words. She groaned, realizing that she was half-naked, and her eyes widened as they refocused, finally seeing clearly what was in front of her – the Countess, flanked by a dishevelled Anna and badly bruised Elsa. The Snow Queen smiled grimly as she summoned a great orb of pure light in her hands. She roared, her eyes enveloped in starfire.
“I’m so sorry, Hilde,” cried Anna, raising her clenched fist while Hilde stared at her, still disoriented and discombobulated. Before she could protest, Anna’s straight right connected with her cheek, throwing her further off-balance and sending her staggering. Blood from the wound left by Vi’s silver dagger trickled from her torso. “Now, Elsa!” shrieked Anna.
“Wake up and come back to me!” screamed Vi, as Elsa gritted her teeth and released the orb in her palms, sending out a great blast of cosmic energy that shot through Hilde’s mutating form. A great howl, a whoosh of otherworldly light, enveloped the four young women. The quiet, midnight forest brightened momentarily with a dawn-like brilliance that matched the glimmer of the moon and northern lights above the canopy. Despite being blinded briefly, Anna and Vi rushed to Elsa and Hilde as the light receded and the trees stopped rustling. Elsa slumped into Anna’s arms, and Viola scooped Hilde up, stroking back her messed blonde hair.
“Hilde. My Hilde,” whispered Vi, her voice unusually tender.
The general had been knocked unconscious, while Elsa was exhausted, holding on to Anna just to stop herself from collapsing to the ground altogether. Vi smiled down at Hilde, who was a full foot taller than the Countess even in her human form, but was now as helpless as a sleeping baby. Gone was any hint of her lycanthropy – no wolf’s fur, no canine teeth. Vi gently set down her ropy and slender body on the cool grass, taking off her cape and draping it on Hilde to cover her wound and torso.
Michael and Alan moved beside Anna, looking at Elsa anxiously. Elsa looked at the two men and smiled. “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she said quietly.
“How can you say that? We were all so worried about you. Who knew that werewolves hadn’t died out yet?” cried Alan.
“You did wonderfully, despite the danger Hilde put us in. I’m so proud of you,” affirmed Michael joyfully.
Drenched in sweat, Anna nodded, smiling broadly. “I’m just glad Elsa is alright. But she needs rest, and no ifs or buts about it!” She stroked Elsa’s cheek, and the Snow Queen beamed up at her. “This is what happens when you get overprotective about me, Elsa.”
Elsa couldn’t help but giggle. “Hilde didn’t end up much better. But I admit, she was formidable. It looks like I wasn’t able to teach her the lesson I had in mind – never hurt my Anna again.”
“I admit that she got carried away,” interjected Vi. “But I’m glad we could end this duel with both of you more or less unharmed. I wish I didn’t have to use my silver dagger on her.” Still kneeling on the ground, the Countess gazed down at Hilde, who was snoring loudly, spent from her exertion against Elsa and her lycanthropy. Vi let out a quiet snigger. “She looks a bit stupid like this, doesn’t she?”
Elsa and Anna gawped at each other, before laughing awkwardly at Vi’s random poke at Hilde. “I was watching your face when you defended Mike and Alan from her,” said Anna, smiling. “You really love her, don’t you?”
The Countess didn’t reply, but the pregnant silence perhaps gave more away than any confession could. “I suppose you’re staying over tonight,” said Vi wryly, looking up at the Diarchy.
Elsa nodded. “I’d like that, Lady Mundilfari.”
Still frazzled from the events of the night, Anna nodded tiredly. “Why would I miss out a chance to see the late night view from your ramparts? I wouldn’t say no to a hot bath, supper, and hot chocolate.”
It would be a few days later by the time Vi finally arrived at one of her stately homes in Arendelle, setting up her base away from Keep Mundilfari. Once she unpacked her bags, the house would be a venue for the new prime minister to host functions and parties, entertaining others at arm’s length from the more intimate sanctum of her castle.
The next morning, she headed to the Great Assembly, that block of nondescript buildings by a cobblestone path near the mountain face further inland. After breakfast, she kneeled before Anna in the throne room, swearing to abide by the royal decree that had made her the kingdom’s first prime minister. Then she took her standing place beside the queen at the center of the hall for the House of Ministers, and she thoroughly enjoyed taking in the sight of the many nervous ministers, who just a few months ago, had voted against Anna’s bills in attempts to curry Vi’s favour.
Anna had glanced at her awkwardly as Vi declared that even though she would no longer direct votes against her own queen, ministers and jarls alike still needed to vote their conscience. She wouldn’t be blindly backing everything the monarch wanted.
“Welcome to our parliament for real, Vi, and I swear we’ll find a way to get rid of Mephisto,” whispered Anna in Vi’s ear, as the ministers obligingly clapped at Vi’s speech. “It’s my promise to you, in gratitude for your giving me a chance.”
“Mephisto has been with my family for a thousand years. I can wait,” muttered Vi, taking in the sights of this relatively humble yet still majestic hall – the hallowed world of Arendelle’s lawmaking. Then she leaned towards Anna’s ear, whispering: “And I have plenty of work for you to go over with me. Shall we go to your study in the palace, or my own in my newly renovated house?” she asked, handing the queen a file of notes discreetly.
Anna laughed nervously, taking the file. “Let me avoid that question for now and ask you another: what do you have for me?”
Vi smiled, crimson eyes glinting. “You’re a big girl now, Anna, and it’s time to dance with the big boys. You’re friends with Yixin, the prince regent of the Great Qing Empire, are you not?”
“He wanted you dead,” said Anna flatly, “for what Hilde did to the Southern Isles. He’s the one who forced my hand. I had to try this creative solution of making you prime minister, so that you wouldn’t attack China while allowing me to stand between you and him.”
“It’s true that he seems ambivalent about you bringing me under your wing.” Vi smirked in anticipation. “Now his running dogs from Russia and America have begun moving their pieces. I suggest you do the same, too.”
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