By Elsa, Queen Emerita of Arendelle
There’s a joke told among the gentlemen (all of them are men) of the shi da fu, the elite scholar-officials that govern the Qing Empire. I find it very tasteless, but it’ll serve the point I’m trying to make: “Good tea for one’s wife, better tea for one’s mistress, and the best tea for an old friend.”
In the Qing, there’s no one more precious than an “old friend.” That’s what I want to discuss today in my column: to appeal to our allies as an old friend. I don’t make this appeal lightly, but do so in the face of an enemy that threatens to make us helpless hostages to his ultimate goal of controlling Arendelle’s economy and threatening our sovereignty.
All this just to prove a point to my Anna: that she should never defy the Exalted.
When I abdicated and passed the monarchic duties to my precious sister, I promised to never be drawn into politics. That was for Anna’s sake. She’s her own woman, the strongest I know. But I never expected that two members of the Exalted would set their sights on Arendelle, the scale of their ambitions almost too overwhelming to comprehend. One of these members, Will Harrison, has instigated a corporate war between Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman House and Lars Krogh’s Skau-Krogh. By swinging behind Skau-Krogh with his considerable financial resources, Harrison is betting not only that Bjorgman is vulnerable, but also that he can drag the Crown into this business conflict.
His final objective? In the wake of Bjorgman’s ruin and Skau-Krogh’s subordination to Harrison’s interests, the Virginian heir will be able to insert himself into Arendellian economic policy.
No one, not even Countess Vi, knows how Harrison obtained the balance sheets of Kristoff’s company. As Uncle Michael suggested, it probably happened when Anna and I were preoccupied with Princess Danielle’s abduction by Katina’s agents. Katina and Harrison are coordinating with each other even as both Exalted members have different goals: one wants to seize Arendelle’s trade rights with the Qing, the other wants Russian control over the North and Baltic Seas.
There are two events that make me feel a sense of responsibility to Anna and Kristoff. The day I was born, on the Winter Solstice, Qing emissaries arrived with an imperial decree from Lord Yixin. His congratulatory gift to our family was a long-coveted title that the Qing granted to only one kingdom every generation: Most Favoured Nation, a status that gave Arendelle unrestricted access to the whole market of the Celestial Empire.
The second event was when after the Great Thaw, I made Kristoff our family’s Ice Master. Skau-Krogh was already a dominant trading company, but quickly lost ground to Bjorgman House, which was only founded that year. Lars took over from his father, but swore to regain Skau-Krogh’s pre-eminence.
At the most recent inner court meeting, my sister decided to ask her government to execute, with immediate effect, the grand alliance that had been in diplomatic incubation since the beginning of her reign. The current signatories alongside our kingdom are Chatho, Zaria, Vakretta, Weselton, and Corona. We had hoped that more countries would sign on, but the shadow of Harrison’s wealth and might is exactly the kind of threat that Anna’s been preparing for. Now is the time to respond. As I’m writing this, the Entente of Small Kingdoms is being formally inaugurated by Countess Vi and Anna. Our ambassadors will take copies of this finalized treaty to the other five countries.
Anna has already opened a channel of dialogue with Queen Colisa of Chatho, one of her strongest international allies. Colisa has known Anna and I since our childhood days, and still visits Arendelle. To our delight, the Royal Bank of Chatho has promised to provide a line of credit to Bjorgman so that Kristoff has a fighting chance against Skau-Krogh.
There is one more matter as nations pick their sides, pawns in a “great game” instigated by Harrison and Katina.
Who deserves to be the Princely House?
Anna swore to face the Exalted’s hostile members without asking for the Qing’s intervention. But today, considering what she’s up against, I must break ranks with my sister. Forgive me, Anna.
Lord Yixin, when I was queen I never asked you for a favour, for I knew that your gift on the day of my birth was an unprecedented gesture of favour and goodwill. I hope my short reign reflected my gratitude. I also know that by publishing this in my newspaper column, I’m making a public plea. I’m doing this because you’ve always praised my sincerity. Well, here I am. Here for my sister.
I ask for your friendship. I ask for your support.
Arendelle is under no illusions that losing its trade rights to Harrison could in fact be more lucrative for China. In the short run, maybe he’s the better bet.
However, this means that Skau-Krogh would replace Bjorgman as Arendelle’s primary commercial interface with the Qing.
Can you risk Kristoff’s place being taken by a new Princely House that doesn’t share Anna’s and my long friendship with the Celestial Empire?
Don’t you rely on old friends as well?