To Princess Katina Romanov and Mr. Will Harrison,
I thank you for your valuable time at our meeting in Constantinople the other week. What a beautiful city – I never tire of visiting.
The Ottomans hold the key to the Mediterranean, and nine years ago, Katina’s father had forced the sultan to give Russia joint suzerainty over the Dardanelles. When France backed a pretender caliph against the sultan, my country, Britain, as well as Russia, felt that everyone’s interests were threatened, especially since Katina sees the Black Sea as Russia’s weak underbelly. I’ve put the appropriate pressure on the sultan, Britain, and France to accept that the strait is forbidden to all ships of any nation as long as the Ottomans remain in charge.
Remember: the illusion of government is often enough to maintain world order. Only if even that breaks down are we allowed to a free-for-all. Until Turkey’s monarchy (or any country’s government) collapses internally, the Exalted will support them.
Now, to the matter of Arendelle, which is of great interest to all of us.
As you know, I was educated both at Eton – my female sex given an exception – and schooled in the Chinese classics by Lord Yixin’s imperial tutors. One of my favourites is the Book of Lao Zi, the scripture for a Chinese religion called Daoism. Let me quote a passage to you:
“Under heaven, nothing is softer and more yielding than water. Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; it has no equal.”
You, Mr. Harrison, have your own fleet, levers of private control over the American economy, and undisputed dominance in the China trade. You, Katina, have the resources of Imperial Russia at your beck and call. You’ve waged continuous wars along your borders that threaten to swallow your neighbours. Indeed, you’re members of the Exalted precisely because you enjoy such power.
But weakness isn’t always a simple gauge of sheer firepower or numbers. Arendelle’s resources are meagre compared to yours. But haven’t you read the papers?
Arendelle’s former monarch, Elsa the Snow Queen, is returning to frontline politics alongside Queen Anna.
Just a month ago, Will, you were patting yourself on the back for showing Anna who’s boss. Admittedly, Anna needed my help to make sure you didn’t get everything you wanted, lest that imbalance of power go to your head. But how confident are you if Elsa joins the negotiations, or even the fray?
I’m also mindful of your plans, Katina – that you’ve been patiently preparing a full-scale invasion of Scandinavia, a campaign that would dwarf your father’s several years ago. You want to succeed where Nicholas I didn’t. The point is that to both of you, Arendelle looked pretty broken and helpless a few weeks ago. Now look what’s happened. Because the Arendellians know of your hostility against them, they’ve brought the Snow Queen back into action. I bet you didn’t expect to encounter her again so soon.
Whether it’s co-rule with Anna or simply giving her regular advice, or representing her in official functions, Elsa’s presence will inevitably and significantly alter the calculations of every ally and foe of Arendelle. Her magic and force of presence is immense and would pose a challenge to even your generals, Katina. The waters of Arendelle’s fjord, once so inviting to you both, are now the domain of the Fifth Spirit.
I’m not in the business of stopping you from pursuing your self-interest. But for your own sake, you shouldn’t assume Arendelle is defenceless. As the Exalted, our power is overwhelming, but pride goeth before a fall, and water is at the same time the weakest – and the strongest.
Miss Peony Sinclair