By Elsa, Queen Emerita of Arendelle
I usually visit Anna every week, often arriving in Arendelle Castle on Friday afternoons, when parliament’s sessions are wrapping up. Anna insists on sleepovers until at least Sunday afternoon, which I’m more than happy to do. So it was a strange feeling when I arrived at the palace today, on the back of my beloved Nokk. It seemed like an eternity since I’d returned, even though it had really only been a fortnight.
I managed to share a heartfelt and loving reunion with Colisa, Chatho’s queen. I’ve treasured her since childhood. If I was Anna’s big sister, then Colisa was like a surrogate elder sister to me, though I was lost to her for a long time during my darker years.
I knew why things felt so strange, though. So much was happening. The Duke of Weselton had stayed with Anna for a while, left to reclaim his territory from Skau-Krogh, but then got himself captured. He and Mari of Vesterland had been held hostage by Harrison, who tied their release to Anna’s relinquishing of our four trade privileges with the Qing emperor. Peony Sinclair’s intervention whittled it down to two, so Harrison didn’t get everything he wanted. But Anna still had to sign the Treaty of Weselton, which is a blow to our kingdom and a heavy blow to Anna personally.
The four privileges formed the substance of our Most Favoured Nation status, which was gifted by the emperor to us on the night of my birth. They’ve allowed Arendelle first-class treatment in the China trade ever since I entered the world. Unfortunately, this happy state of affairs with the Celestial Empire is no more. Anna will have to find some other way to recoup Arendelle’s economic advantages, as well as strengthening her relationship with Lord Yixin.
My birth, my business. Anna, I’m not going to stop you from doing whatever you think is best. You’re the queen. You’re my queen. But I’m not going to let you face this political and personal agony alone.
I know why Anna’s spirit was broken over this. There’s nothing she treasures more than the lives and wellbeing of her friends. She’ll do anything to save them – even the Duke – and that is what she did, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.
I’m here to tell her that she should follow her heart, painful though it might be.
Loss and defeat always dog a national leader. But sometimes a defeat is a stepping stone to an even greater victory later on. It may look like Harrison has won the day, but I wouldn’t be so arrogant if I were him. Defeat can strengthen a leader even more profoundly than victory. Leaders learn more from setbacks, misfortunes, and disappointments than they ever could from win after win. Anna, think of when we play chess. You always manage to outflank me after losing to me the previous round. That’s because that sharp, big brain of yours learns quickly and works out why I won. And then you defeat me easily!
Only history can decide, looking back on our era when Anna and I are long gone, whether we did the best thing for our kingdom. Will Anna claw our way back from her loss to Harrison? Will she rally our allies, including Colisa, to reinforce our defences against the more malevolent members of the Exalted? Whatever she chooses, I’m right behind her and I’ll support her in anything she does.
There’s someone else watching Anna apart from me. That’s Yixin, the man controlling the emperor behind the Dragon Throne. He’s long had his own plans for what our kingdom can represent in the world: a land of peace and peacemaking, a country that doesn’t follow the usual path of conquest and being conquered. For Anna and I to unite the world in love, just as we did with Northuldra and Arendelle.
Although I never fully understood his machinations when I was queen, this strangely ageless regent (he looks just the same now as he did on the night of my birth!) has always treated us with mentorly kindness and a sense of national purpose. However, I also know that he’s remote, somewhat frightening, and thinks in centuries rather than years or even decades. I’m sure that he and his protégé, Peony Sinclair, are paying close attention to what we’ll do next.
Even though some see me as an elder stateswoman, I don’t see myself as a political figure giving advice on matters of state. I’ve also never experienced challenges like what Anna is facing during my reign, and Anna is right to feel disoriented. There are no easy solutions.
I urge my sister – my queen, who I love and serve with every fibre in my being – to follow her instincts, to do what she feels is right, while also taking her short-term defeats in stride, confident that she’ll build on these setbacks to ever greater things.
Think of the world, not just Arendelle, my beloved. Because what we do now echoes across the globe.