Your Imperial Highness Yixin, Prince Regent of the Great Qing Empire,
I trust you’re in good health! In the past year I haven’t had the chance to sail to Canton, to visit the American factory there. Our tai-pans are very busy at this time of year, with many merchants moving to the ports that your emperor has opened. But I trust that global events, which we’ve always steered with confidence, will bring us back together soon enough.
I hope you visit Berkeley Plantation one day and let me host your stay in our beautiful Virginia. As heir to one of her First Families, what I say pretty much goes. You haven’t had apple pie before, have you?
I’ve been observing recent developments in a corner of Northern Europe, which have already influenced regional and global tides. For such a small place, it’s punching above its weight. Happenings there could easily tip the balance of power in the Baltic and even northern Eurasia.
You know Scandinavia well. Indeed, Arendelle has a presence at the doorstep of China, in Hong Kong. Last time I was in Canton, I sailed over to the Brits’ island to visit Bjorgman House’s branch. We’ve tried Kristoff’s ice in our sodas and gin & tonics and it’s fantastic, really top-notch.
I know that you’re friends with Queen Anna, and you’ve always given her good advice. But you’re also the leader of the Exalted, and our motto has always been, “Smooth governance of governments.” Nothing of true significance happens in any part of the world, free or occupied, without our awareness and approval.
You know this, but many in our most exclusive rulers’ club eye Anna with a mix of fear, jealousy, and suspicion. We should be in the business of moving economies and states as we see fit, not bothering ourselves with a tiny snow kingdom like Arendelle.
Diarchy, schmiarchy. These amateurs, Anna and Elsa, have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. Anna might respect and look up to you, Your Imperial Highness, but you deserve better. They’re ants who think they can join a herd of elephants.
Still, despite how imperfect they are, they’re objects of interest for a reason. Do you remember when Elsa was queen? Russia had wanted to dominate the supply lines along the Baltic Sea, and the tsar had thought any detractors would be easy to bully into submission. But his diplomats suffered a nasty shock when Elsa assembled a coalition of smaller countries and pretty much blocked the sea routes between Russia and the Germanic states! Arendelle’s interests wouldn’t be dismissed, nor its representatives silenced, the Snow Queen had declared.
Two legacies emerged from this fiasco on Russia’s part: a burning grudge against Arendelle nursed by Princess Katina, our fellow Exalted member, and Anna’s own inspiration for a grand alliance of smaller kingdoms and states to resist larger powers.
You’ve always just seen Anna as a harmless protege to nurture, perhaps to use as a pawn against the Exalted’s enemies. But then she allied with that wild card, that most fearsome countess, Viola Mundilfari.
Such was Viola’s influence and wealth that we had seriously considered inviting her into the Exalted. Then she shocked us all with her military might and ruthlessness by sending her general, Hilde Von Altheim, to raze the Southern Isles.
That’s when you personally asked Anna to deal with Viola, right? Yet by making Viola her prime minister, isn’t Anna defying you and the Exalted? She might have written a letter of apology to you with all sorts of excuses about how she wanted to obey you but couldn’t plunge her kingdom into civil war, but… please don’t let her charisma and your own sympathy for her blind you.
Katina and I are at your disposal, sir. We can ensure that the sister-queens of Arendelle and Northuldra understand where they fit in the pecking order of the world – and who really runs the global show.
I remain, as always, your loyal ally.
Will Harrison of James River
Member of the Exalted