WARNING: Strong language, profanity
ARENDELLE; BOSTON – In a heavy blow for Queen Anna and her government, Arendelle is poised to sign the Treaty of Weselton, which will cede to Will Harrison of Virginia two of Her Majesty’s four coveted trading freedoms with the Celestial Empire. Our queen will retain the lower taxes for Arendellian banks, and continue to enjoy the privilege of exercising Arendellian law in territory assigned to Arendellians by the Chinese emperor. But the tariff-free imports and expedited customs – critical for volume and speed in importing products – will be transferred to Harrison’s private monopolies.
Reporters say that whether the State of Virginia demands that Mr. Harrison share these privileges with the Virginian government remains an internal American dispute.
Harrison had instigated a corporate war between two Arendellian companies: Kristoff’s Bjorgman and Lars Krogh’s Skau Krogh. Harrison used Skau-Krogh to plunge Arendelle into economic uncertainty, before moving against Anna’s Entente of Small Kingdoms. While he failed to subdue Chatho, Harrison defeated a combined force of Weselton, Vesterland, and Arendellian forces attempting to liberate Weselton of Skau-Krogh’s occupation. With Princess Mari of Vesterland and the Duke captured, Anna took the dramatic step of opening talks with Mr. Harrison to negotiate their release.
Harrison has arrived in Arendelle to sign the treaty. His private clipper, the Enslaver, is to dock in the harbour – beside Anna’s own flagship, Pride of Elsa.
The concession of two trade privileges rather than four is good news for Arendelle, but remains symbolically crushing for Anna as they represent the terms of the Celestial Empire’s gift to Agnarr and Iduna on the night of Elsa’s birth. This marks the lowest point in Anna’s reign since the early days of her conflict with Countess Vi Mundilfari. As the current prime minister, Lady Mundilfari is absent from Arendelle and unable to assist Anna.
It’s unknown what will happen to Skau-Krogh now that Mr. Harrison seems to have wrenched his desired deal from Queen Anna.
Elsa, Queen Colisa of Chatho, and Kristoff stood in the corner of Arendelle Castle’s throne room, watching Anna standing hunched over a teak desk that had been moved to the center of the hall. As the sovereign of her own state, Colisa would usually not be privy to the signing of a new treaty. But here she was, at Anna’s invitation. Kristoff had never felt angrier at himself for not being able to prevent his beloved’s distress. His kind and friendly face was a grimace, his usually generous heart hating Harrison even more than Lars Krogh.
Anna felt so tired. She’d spent weeks, night after late night, poring over the terms of this document, which Peony had prepared for her and Harrison to sign. Her eyes glazed over the contents of the treaty. She’d gone over it countless times in her study, but she’d read the text so many times that it was banal and meaningless. The text read that Harrison would end his financial assistance for Skau-Krogh, leaving Kristoff’s rival with crushing debt from all the investments it had made. He would withdraw all troops from Weselton. Most importantly, Harrison’s men would release the Duke and Princess Mari, and Vesterland and Weselton would be unharmed.
“Mr. Harrison of Virginia is here!” called a courtier, and the door to the throne room boomed open, revealing the Exalted heir and merchant prince. He had a sour scowl on his face, no doubt because he wasn’t getting everything he wanted. “I hope you’re happy, Your Majesty,” he called, as he walked over to Anna. His entitled attitude irked Colisa and Kristoff, and they locked their glowering stares on him. “Mari and the Duke are heading back to their people as we speak. Weselton is back in the Duke’s hands and Skau-Krogh will never pose a threat to Kristoff’s company again. You have my word that the true loser of this war will be Lars. Not you. In fact, Kristoff should be thanking me for leaving Skau-Krogh so vulnerable. You could snap up their assets at any time.”
“I should be giving you a beatdown for what you’ve done to my queen,” barked Kristoff at Harrison.
Anna looked at Harrison witheringly. “You insult our intelligence and dignity. All this time you’ve been bartering for my kingdom’s honour as Most Favoured Nation to the emperor with…” She shook her head, incredulous at how cynical Harrison could be. “… with the lives of Mari and the Duke. How could you?”
“Hey. You guys made the wrong play. You guys gave me the chance of a lifetime. And I still wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, thanks to Peony’s meddling,” said Harrison, shrugging. He smiled darkly. “Still, we can close this chapter without each other’s blood on our hands.”
“Wrong. You’ve done a great violence against my kingdom and Elsa’s legacy, which I swore to uphold.” Anna glared at Harrison, speaking as calmly as she could. “I can offer you other terms. I can ask Kristoff to relinquish his branches in Hong Kong and Colombo to Skau-Krogh.”
Harrison shrugged. “Once I have the privileges for no tariffs and faster customs, I’ll have no need for Lars. You can do whatever you want to him – ruin him, bankrupt him, I don’t care anymore.”
“What if Arendelle pays the United States a large indemnity to compensate for your war with Weselton and Vesterland?”
“Nice try. It’s attractive, but that money will go to my government, when it should be mine. And I don’t need a one-time payment. I want years of aggressive expansion in the China trade.” Harrison shook his head at Anna. “My offer is final, and you’ve drafted the treaty for two out of four already. Come on, let’s not waste each other’s time. I know you. You’re a queen of sudden, decisive action. It’s usually a strength, but when you’re forced to protect those you care about, it becomes a weakness, a failing I can exploit mercilessly.”
Anna stared at the waiting treaty, then back at Harrison. “I won’t ever forgive you for this,” she snarled, her voice rising as her quaking hand picked up the quill.
“Woof, woof. The little dog barks. Now you see for yourself the true weight of an Exalted member, and you could barely claw your way out of total defeat without Peony’s help anyway! A diminished ruler of a small kingdom – I’ve long wanted to teach you a lesson, Your Majesty. You’ve grown way too big for your boots just because Lord Yixin trusts you to manage Northern Europe. It’s an insult to those of us who really control the world.” He gestured with his hand. “Sign it and get it over with. I have a ship to New York waiting.”
Elsa watched sadly as Anna lifted the swan’s feather quill. Anna’s jaw was clenched so tightly that she felt her mouth would fall off, and her freckled face so flushed with fury that she felt herself sweating.
She dipped the quill in ink, but some of it dripped onto the table and paper thanks to her unsteady hand.
For the first time, a flash of anger crossed Harrison’s face as he watched Anna’s hand, shaking, hesitating, unable to press the quill point down on the parchment. He suddenly moved forward, standing right behind Anna and grabbing her arm roughly. Anna looked behind her in shock and outrage while Kristoff roared in protest. Restrained as ever thanks to her queen’s training, Elsa’s eyes remained calm, although her lips were very, very thin. Colisa moved forward, enraged. “How dare you! Step back from Her Majesty!” she shouted.
But Harrison ignored her as he gripped Anna’s hand, pressing the quill on the treaty as he hissed, “You won’t deny me any more. Sign it, you stupid girl.”
“Get your filthy hands off me, Will. I know how to write.” After a brief struggle, Anna broke free, snarling as she elbowed Harrison aside defiantly. Hating herself as she felt her eyes prickle with tears of humiliation and white-hot rage, she forced her hand onto the document, nearly stabbing through the paper as she signed her name.
“There. Two out of fucking four. That wasn’t so goddamn hard, was it?” sighed Harrison, stepping forward and scribbling his signature below her’s, before finally backing off.
Colisa glared at Harrison, her usually tender brown eyes alight with fury at this brazen violation of Anna’s personal space. Kristoff bellowed furiously and would have attacked Harrison, had Elsa not put a gentle hand on his shoulder. She shook her head, and Kristoff’s neck turned purple in rage. Anna, for her part, couldn’t even look at Harrison, her small shoulders heaving as she swallowed with great difficulty the urge to round on him and punch him until his face was as broken as her spirit. “Stop,” she begged Kristoff, staring down at nothing. “Please… stop.”
“Yeah, Kristoff. Listen to your royal squeeze. Be grateful that your rival Skau-Krogh’s about to go belly-up, now that I’m cutting off my funds to Lars as part of our agreement. Since Lars is going to hang high and dry, the Princely House will be free to pluck him like a dead duck,” said Harrison, returning to his usual happy-go-lucky self. “I’m about to get a hell of a lot wealthier than I already am. Expect some letters and documents from my secretary, Tiffany, very soon.”
Anna put a hand on her table, her aqua eyes weary. “Please… just go, Will. Just… piss off.”
“You’re not welcome in Arendelle. Ever!” barked Kristoff.
Harrison held up his hands, suddenly genial and deferential now that he had his prize in his grasp. “All good, all good. A fine afternoon to you!” He put a hand to his chest and bowed deeply before Anna, playing the game of deference now that he’d asserted his power over her.
He turned his back and made for the door, but as he did, Elsa clicked her fingers, and Harrison felt his world spinning as his boot slipped on a shimmering sheet of ice that had suddenly crystallized on the ground around him. He crashed to the ground, crying out as he nearly sprained his arm. He clutched his sore rear. “What the fuck?” he cried. There was a shocked silence in the throne room as the Arendellians stared at Harrison in shock. Then came the giggles and snickers of amusement. Anna’s distraught face curved – just a bit – into a small smile. Kristoff roared in gratified laughter, making no attempt to hide his enjoyment of Harrison’s petty humiliation. Even Colisa grinned. It was a rare moment of justified schadenfreude.
Harrison scrambled up, face red as he looked at Elsa. “Ha. Ha ha. Smart one, Snow Queen. I’d gladly turn Enslaver’s cannons on you if Arendelle and I came to war. Katina Romanov says hi, by the way. She still wants revenge against you for your defeat of her father’s Baltic Fleet.”
Elsa smiled. “I have no business with the Exalted. I’m just a private citizen.”
Harrison smirked darkly as he struggled to stop himself from slipping again. He knew better than to attack Elsa, or anyone else for that matter. For now. He gestured wildly at the amused guard, who waited just a few moments longer before opening the door and allowing Harrison to stagger out. Elsa knew she was being petty, but it was the least she could do as Anna stepped away, unable to look at that hated treaty. Elsa and Colisa rushed toward the table on which the document lay and gently caught Anna in an embrace.
Anna’s voice was groggy and trembling. She was looking feverish. “Elsa. Tell me I’m horrible. Tell me I’ve failed you. I can’t live with myself if you forgive me so easily.”
“Don’t be silly, you strong and beautiful monarch. You did so well. Don’t you ever blame yourself,” murmured Elsa, stroking Anna’s red hair and tucking her head against her bosom. Arendelle’s queen began to sob. At last, her own dam broke, and she wailed, crying in the two women’s arms as the full weight of what she’d done to save Mari and the Duke came crashing around her.
“I don’t deserve to be your successor. I don’t deserve to serve my people. I don’t deserve to be your equal, Colisa,” she seethed, gripping Elsa and Colisa tightly. “My hand, where Harrison grabbed me… it hurts.”
“Not another word!” rebuked Colisa sternly. She ran her hand tenderly along Anna’s tearful face. “Come now, you need rest. Today’s been a horrible day. For now, you must forgive yourself – for Arendelle’s sake and the whole world’s sake.” Anna nodded slowly, relaxing slightly.
“You’ve shown great courage on Mari and the Duke’s behalf,” agreed Colisa. “I know they won’t forget this. You’ll recover with the help with your allies, including Chatho. I promise.”
Elsa smiled, her hand on Anna’s chin. “Rally your strength and the Entente of Small Kingdoms. We’re not out of options.”
Anna smiled, savouring her big sister’s touch. Opening her closed eyes, she glanced at Kristoff. “Baby, I know this won’t be easy,” she said quietly, “but Skau-Krogh is vulnerable, and we have some leverage. Can you call a meeting with Mr. Krogh? Tell him I have a proposition.”
Kristoff nodded. “I’ll gladly see him if it helps you. What’s my game plan?”
“I’ll tell you over dinner. And Colisa?” Anna turned to her fellow queen. “I know that Lord Yixin still sees Arendelle as Most Favoured Nation. Just because I’ve ceded some privileges to Harrison doesn’t mean I’ve fallen out of favour with the Qing court, which the prince regent has steered for as long as I can remember.” Anna’s aqua eyes glimmered with a dash of hope.
“It’s a big world out there. It’s time to put together a new plan for our kingdom.”
Anna’s journey as Arendelle’s queen continues with an expanded plotline with an ever-growing gallery of friend, foe, and everything in between!
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