Story art by PURY (@puryartist)
Contribution by Michael, trade minister of Arendelle
I had just heard the laughter of Elsa and Anna after they left the study. Over Anna’s favourite chocolate cake, Elsa, Anna, and myself, talked about Anna’s first meeting with Grand Duke Sora, the fallen angel, only to be interrupted by Kai, saying that the ministers had called an urgent meeting at the Great Assembly. The meeting lasted two hours. Afterwards, I came back to Arendelle Castle, had dinner with my family including my nieces, along with Princess Danny, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, and Sir Alan. Then I went to the door that led to the fjord just outside the castle walls, to relax with a fine cigar and drink and watch the evening sunset.
I was starting to relax, my cigar lit and such. I’d barely taken a sip of my iced tea when a voice from behind said to me, “I’ve never stayed in such a small kingdom for so long.” It caught me by surprise! Yet it was was a sober and gentle voice, even and measured. Modest but ancient. “But I’ve been so fascinated by how the people here have interacted here with me, I just couldn’t help myself.”
I quickly turned around to see that it was Sora, in her Arendellian outfit and disguise. She looked just like your average young woman – pretty and attractive, true, but quite mortal, thank you very much. Were it not for a couple of out-of-place white feathers on the ground beside her boots, there would have been no hint of her true self at all for me to know who it was.
I gathered my composure and said to my guest, cordially, “Grand Duke Sora, I presume? I’m pleased to finally meet you, albeit on much friendlier terms than when I met your two contemporaries. You’ve met my nieces and Sir Alan. You’re everything that they’ve told me about you. Attractive, beautiful, even in a nondescript Arendellian garb.”
Sora smiled in good-natured amusement. “Thank you, Trade Minister. I was never very good at choosing outfits. I just go with what seems to be the way people dress, wherever they are.” She was indeed unusually beautiful – almost in a way that was sensed rather than seen. She was modest about that, too. “Yaraslaf and Nykras are my compatriots – something that Anna and Alan weren’t able to accept, and I don’t blame you if you can’t either.”
She peered out at the late night harbour. “I’d come to see Anna, but loitered about unexpectedly. You’ve got such a beautiful place here, after all.”
“Thank you,” I said to our celestial guest. “I can understand Anna’s and Alan’s reactions. It’s hard to believe that a Grand Duke like yourself is in the company of Yaraslaf and Nykras. They’re definitely two warlord types. But you seem to be the most reasonable of the three. You try to avoid war, yet as I understand from what Anna and Alan tell me, will fight if so ordered by Katina. You can choose to be a conscientious objector, or fight under protest, right?”
Sora’s olive-coloured eyes glimmered as she turned and smiled at me: “I’ve destroyed many armies and slaughtered many soldiers through the ages. I’m no angel – pardon the pun. Make no mistake – I haven’t hesitated to destroy the enemies of the Romanovs, and neither have Yaraslaf or Nykras. A mortal couldn’t experience the loyalty someone like me would feel for generation upon generation of human masters. Even with someone as volatile as Katina.”
She sighed, as if thinking of a simpler time. “Things are different now because Elsa changed Arendelle,” admitted Sora. “Once, Russia thought it was merely one of many small Scandinavian fiefdoms. Now it’s something special.”
“How are we now special to Katina and the tsar?” I asked, then added, “I know that Katina has a grudge against Elsa for defeating Nicholas I, her father, years ago. How on earth did you manage to put a scare into my niece Anna, anyway?”
Sora answered, with a small smile: “Like this.”
She grabbed and lifted me by the arms and shot clear up into the sky like a geyser in the mountains or a volcanic eruption! My head was spinning as we whizzed through the clouds so fast, I heard the mighty boom. I had snot running out out of my nose, and my cigar was completely incinerated from the speed. She then stopped dead in the air, still holding me! Even some of birds flying by had bewildered looks on their faces!
“Does this impress you?” she asked.
“Very impressed!” I said, after calming down from the initial panic (and I mean panic!). I then asked: “Can you please put us down on the balcony?”
Sora looked genuinely good-humoured as she said, “Of course.” We landed there softly (she has a thing about landing easy for us old dudes!). I was still in shock and amazement over what this woman could do!
After I regained my composure, I asked her again what made Elsa and Arendelle so special. Sora stood beside me behind the balustrade, her eyes fixed on the darkened horizon. “I wasn’t involved in the Battle of Odinland, for it was a former Grand Duke, Sergei, who led that invasion. But I knew of Elsa’s singlehanded sinking of the Baltic Fleet and Colisa’s capture of Sergei. My master never recovered from such a turnaround in his expedition’s fortunes, leaving the task to his daughter, Katina.” She raised a hand, and the wind seemed to blow along her arm, as if greeting the angel’s presence. “When Elsa became the Fifth Spirit, it was as if a great echo reverberated across the world. That was when I knew Elsa wasn’t just a girl with formidable ice magic. I told Katina, but she took a… different view. Arendelle wasn’t just a subject of her vengeance. It was the prize, especially with Elsa at its centre.”
So I asked, my expression sad and disappointed, “So in other words, capture Arendelle and Northuldra for the real prize, Elsa the Fifth Spirit, right? Sora, let me tell you: Yes, Elsa is the Fifth Spirit, and both her and Queen Anna are the bridge between both worlds. But they’re much more than that. You were never there to see the pain of their father King Agnarr and Elsa herself when they decided to keep her and Anna separated for ten years after a terrible accident. With Elsa living in fear and self-blame, while Anna tried for many years to get Elsa to come out of hiding, not knowing why Elsa was so distant after being so close before. The deaths of both Agnarr and Queen Iduna only deepened the pain. It was heartbreaking for me, their uncle, to watch this play out, day after lonely day. I was the only one with the courage to actually hold Elsa and ease her fear, with her warnings of ‘don’t touch me, I don’t want to hurt you!’ It’s what led me to angrily leave Arendelle, after… well, mine and Agnarr’s disagreement, let’s say.”
I continue: “I went to build a new life in that young country of the United States after leaving Arendelle and my family in a huff. I had some success there with work and business opportunities. I was happy with that for a while, until I picked up a newspaper to see that the sweetest people in my life, Agnarr and Iduna, were lost at sea, with Anna and Elsa having no family to face the tragic circumstances. I returned to Arendelle as quickly as I could.”
I added: “You never saw Elsa running away from her coronation after her secret came out, with Anna in hot pursuit. Nor her total heartbreak when Anna froze to death from another icy blast, this one to her heart. I thank God everyday that He saw the love Anna had, giving the last of her waning life there to save Elsa from Hans’ blade. The Bible – ”
“Ah yes, that book with His greatest hits,” interrupted Sora wryly. “Angels, fallen or no, do have some knowledge of it.’
I pressed on. “It says in John 15:13: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Anna’s love did that for Elsa. They enjoyed three full, fulfilling years of reconciliation. I was there for it. I had started my business and Elsa help me like she helped Kristoff. And all the while, Elsa and Anna still had issues – depression, anxiety, panic attacks. Elsa got some of the worst of it. Thankfully, they had each other and a loving Uncle, who’s been there too. I’ve seen them rally one another with Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven’s support! We were and still are there for each other.”
“You love them very much,” Sora said, the understanding in her eyes genuine.
I then said, “When Elsa and Anna returned from Northuldra and Ahtohallan, it changed them. They saw their parent’s shipwreck together and found the truth on that before Athohallan. Elsa led me to that site to see it for myself and receive needed forgiveness and closure on a sad chapter of my life. Elsa went the rest of the way to Athohallan alone. It was like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon! She was happier, more confident. She knew who she was and what she was meant to be. But Elsa nearly died while finding out a bitter truth about King Runeard, their grandfather. Anna was devastated, yet picked herself up and led the Earth Spirit to destroy a dam built by Runeard to sap the Northuldra’s magical power. It also freed Elsa from her icy tomb in Ahtohallan. Elsa then saved Arendelle from the floodwaters from Runeard’s destroyed reservoir. Elsa and Anna then promised each other that together, they’d keep both lands protected. But most importantly, they would be together in heart soul and spirit.
“Sora, to us, Elsa is more than these lofty names of the Fifth Spirit, the Snow Queen, or half the bridge. She’s a sister, a niece, a friend, a mum to little Princess Danielle. In short, Sora, she’s family.”
Sora listened with what seemed to Michael to be sympathy and sincerity. She even nodded after he’d finished recounting the centrality of Elsa and Anna to his life in and out of Arendelle. “I don’t disagree with much of what you say. I can see with my own eyes how beloved the queen of Arendelle and her older sister are: not just to the people but to their inner court… to intimate acquaintances like you.” Her face was sympathetic, yes, but it was also hard. “Tell me, trade minister. You say that Elsa and Anna are family, so surely there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them? I’ve watched over generations of tsars and their daughters and sons. Each and every one of their lives are a part of me, like the feathers of my celestial wings. Are they not my family, too? My hope that Arendelle might perhaps not war with Russia isn’t simply for your kingdom’s sake, but for Katina’s own. I serve her and her alone.”
I replied to Sora’s question: “They most certainly are. I’d be a fool to say no to that. And like you, I serve Queen Anna. Just like your beautiful feathers are a part of you as the Romanov’s and the tsar’s past are as part of you, Anna and Elsa are part of me, because in our hearts is where we hold them the closest and the tightest. And I believe compromise should be done here to not only preserve and save those closest to us, but also build a long lasting peace and friendship, and avoiding a useless, senseless war. A war waged in the name of conquest is empty and only serves to build anger and mistrust.”
I added: “Anna mentioned that Katina wants Arendelle not only as a prize but to buffer against further attacks from other nations seeking to conquer. At this point, both Russia and Arendelle would have a common issue. See, Anna’s Entente of Small Kingdoms unites Chatho, Vesterland, Weselton, and other smaller nations, together as allies with common needs and values. Russia could join us as a new ally and friend, where we provide a common defense of the North Sea passage from invading enemies, and enhanced trade with each other, without the destruction and the needless loss of life that a war of conquest would bring. Those close to us in our families could become friends and establish diplomatic relationships that all involved can benefit from.
“It would be much, much better than conquest and forced servitude, where bitterness can fester. When it comes to Arendelle and Northuldra and the Entente, we want to be free and not fear those who only seek to conquer and occupy. We’ll fight with everything we have to make it so. Yet, if a peaceful solution can be found, we should find that together. For all of our loved ones. But Katina also wants revenge on Elsa. Revenge is a sucker’s game. It only leads to more war, more pain, more mistrust, misunderstanding, misery. Forgiveness and love is the better way.”
Sora nodded slowly. Despite her immortality and ancient heritage, she was open-minded and learned all she could from mortals. “I can’t say I disagree with what you say. Perhaps I could propose the benefit of Russia’s involvement in Anna’s Entente – after all, it Katina’s forebears joined alliances on the Continent against that fearsome Napoleon.” She pursed her lips, her hands on the balustrade. “Perhaps she can be convinced to extend the idea of joining Anna’s alliance.”
“I think and hope so.” I said in reply, looking at Sora and holding her hand softly. “I definitely hope so.”
Sora smiled. “You’re a good person, Michael – I can feel it. Angels, even fallen ones like me, can sense the auras of human beings. No one’s ever perfectly bright, or perfectly dark. But yours shines well, as does many of the people I’ve come across in this kingdom.”
She let me hold her hand for a few pleasant minutes, before drawing back and unfurling her wings. She looked back at me with her beautiful olive eyes. “I’ll speak to Katina, but I as many other nations are being drawn into the conflict between mine and yours, I fear that we’re in a powder keg that can explode.”
“I agree, Sora.” I said. “It’s not a place to be with people who want to foolishly play with matches.”
“Be careful, Michael – I said the same to Anna. It would be most unfortunate if Katina were to unleash me in battle.”
“Then if I see you again, let it be peaceful like tonight. The thought of seeing you on the wrong side of my Colt pistol that Hilde altered for me would make me very heartsick,” I humbly said.
I sighed as she shot from the balcony into the night sky, a mighty boom rocking the castle. If any average person had said what we both just said to each other, they’d sound like two delusional fantasists on a power trip. But because it was between Sora and myself, such words meant care and concern for each other and those closest to us. Perhaps that was what made our words even more worrying.
Let’s all pray that does not come to pass.
Your Trade Minister,