By HM Queen Anna
I’m stunned. My hands are trembling, my palms are cold yet clammy.
Things were going so well – Chatho, thanks to Colisa’s foresight and military strength, remains untouchable by Skau-Krogh. Kristoff had even been buying up Skau-Krogh’s bonds despite their price, raising Skau-Krogh’s value even as Lars was trying to dump Bjorgman stock at a discount. It sounds counterintuitive, but Kristoff’s financiers are gradually persuading Skau-Krogh’s investors that he’d be a better boss for Skau-Krogh than Lars. There’s even talk of a merger in the air, depending on which trading house bests the other.
I was so sure that after Colisa’s defeat of Skau-Krogh’s privateers, it wouldn’t be amiss to let the Duke of Weselton set off for his duchy. Skau-Krogh’s privateers had occupied his land, but we’d devised a two-pronged assault in tandem with Mari of Vesterland’s troops. I’d boosted his forces with one of Mattias’ own contingents, whose troops had received brief training by Commander Hilde. The Duke and Mari’s commanders had wanted to move quickly, and I agreed to the gamble.
And now… oh, dear citizen, you’ve probably read the morning news already.
The Weselton reinforcements, along with Mattias’ men, were beaten, and the Vesterland troops were also dealt a heavy defeat by Skau-Krogh’s privateers. They were apparently led into an ambush that neutralized their pincer attack and scattered them altogether. They’d been supported by new firepower from Mr. Harrison, the Exalted member who’s really behind Skau-Krogh’s militarization. And in the midst of it all, Harrison’s captains seized Mari and the Duke and are holding them hostage.
What have I done?
I struggle to think of a worse possible position I can be in. Weselton remains occupied. Both the Duke and Mari are at Harrison’s and that awful woman Tiffany Hunsecker’s mercy. And now Vesterland risks Harrison’s vengeance. Mari had already taken a risk by helping Weselton. Now her home is in Skau-Krogh’s sights. My Entente of Small Kingdoms is looking weaker by the month – if I don’t act quickly, Harrison might be able to break it up altogether.
I can barely eat as I churn over my options. I feel as terrified and broken as I did when I was in that dank cave where Elsa and Olaf died for just a few hours. When I could only think of what the next right thing to do was.
And now, I’m confronted with that same question. What’s the next right thing to do when you and the people you care about are cornered?
I can’t start a full hot war with Harrison; he has a full fleet of ships that would sink even Pride of Elsa. And who knows if his lobbyists can call upon the military might of his home country of America? Would their president come to Arendelle’s aid… or Harrison’s? My diplomats urge me to be cautious about trying to force another country’s hand.
I have to invite Mr. Harrison to parlay with me. I can perhaps demand that Skau-Krogh back off and stop the Arendellian economy from sending everything crashing around Lars and Kristoff. But why would Harrison even consider helping out the Princely House? Unless…
Unless I give him his ultimate prize and bypass Lars altogether. Make Lars irrelevant. But that would mean…
If I surrender to him my trading privileges with the emperor of China, then I know he’ll happily let Mari and the Duke go.
I can’t let him harm either of them, but my demands for Harrison are admittedly huge. I wish for him to: one, abandon Skau-Krogh and let Kristoff beat Lars fair and square; two, vacate his forces from Weselton; three, release Princess Mari and the Duke; and four, promise not to invade Vesterland.
He’s aware he has the leverage – for now. I have nothing he’d want to be persuaded to do all four, and he knows it. He wants only one thing. And if I’m to have a hope of realistically saving Mari and the Duke, I’ll have to give it to him.
The gift bestowed on us on the very eve of Elsa’s birth, which catapulted my father and mother’s reign to dizzying heights of prosperity, strengthening our position in Scandinavia and enriching a hundred years of our kingdom’s trade with the Celestial Empire – gone.
Oh, Elsa. I feel like I want to throw up. I’ve failed you. I’m such a failure. Tears are running down my face as I pen this column.
Oh, spirits, I’m not worthy of the hidden plan that Lord Yixin has for me.
I’m not worthy of Vi’s hope that I’ll save her from Mephistopheles.
Worst of all – I’m not worthy of Elsa’s trust, to be her successor.
How sudden Lady Fortune’s favor can turn to cruelty. I’ve been beaten.
In sadness and sick worry,