MOSCOW; SAINT PETERSBURG – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia has issued a public statement to the Entente of Small Kingdoms, warning that the armies of the three Grand Dukes will ignore attempts by Arendelle’s allies to stymie any Russian advance into Northern Europe.
The tsar’s government is arguing that the annexation of Scandinavia is a last resort after decades of failed Russian appeasement and continued incursions by states like France and Sweden. The ministry’s statement is being taken by diplomatic missions around the world to be prelude to a formal declaration of war. Tensions are understandably high, as a Russo-Arendellian confrontation could alter the balance of power across the Eurasian supercontinent.
“Our policy also applies to even the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, which despite their outward neutrality, seek to hinder Russia’s steps to protect itself against the predations of Western Europe,” said Katina Romanov, princess of Russia. Arendelle has accused her of being the mastermind behind the tsar’s aggressive foreign policy. “Never again will another Frenchman like Napoleon – or Prussian, or Briton, or Austrian – ravage our land or our people again. Russia demands two things: fear and respect. Fear of Russian vengeance should her sovereignty be violated, and respect for her stature and dignity as a great continental, global power.”
The statement was immediately rejected by the Arendelle, Chatho, Vesterland, Southern Isles, and Weselton governments in a joint Entente statement. “This is nothing more than a justification for Russia’s intensifying and relentless pressure on Arendelle and her allies. The best path forward is for Russia to join the Entente, although prospects of that happening under Princess Katina’s leadership is dim,” said the statement. “We lament the imperial instincts of the current tsardom, and see Katina as the true source of destabilization and war.”
Queen Anna of Arendelle has been contacted for a direct statement to the press.
From her vantage of the magnificent Winter Palace, which stood across from the recently completed, Neoclassical General Staff Building, Katina Romanov stood at one of the balustrades, enjoying the view of regiment after regiment of well-trained, disciplined soldiers saluting their sovereign from the Palace Square. The entire plaza, which was broadly triangular in shape, was filled with the crème de la crème of Russia’s soldiers. With the sun shining, it was a good day for parading the might of the Russian army before its reformer and leader, Katina. There was jubilant mood about the cold winter air as the soldiers marched in immaculate lockstep, coming to a halt directly before the Winter Palace’s facade.
“Not bad, huh?” came a growling, deep voice. Katina didn’t turn around even though she felt the arctic chill of Yaraslaf’s breath. His voice was like a snowstorm. The polar werebear gave a toothy grin, towering several feet over Katina. “You were right to promote me to admiral of the Baltic Fleet. We have a ten thousand-strong, slimmed down corps of elite soldiers that have seen action from Greece to Manchuria. The warships have been rebuilt since your father’s days. My men are ready to see action and march through the streets of Arendelle.”
“Magnificent, Grand Duke,” she said quietly, waving her hand, as the several hundreds of soldiers, rifles resting against shoulders and bayonets bristling in the air, saluted and boomed in one great throng, “ROO-SI-YA! ROO-SI-YA!”
The Baltic Fleet’s men formed only one portion of the shock troops that would sustain the campaign. There was another force she was counting on. “With me, Yaraslaf,” she said, turning around and walking back indoors, closing the door to the balcony behind her. Yaraslaf lumbered after her as she continued to walk, snapping her fingers. “Are you here?”
The room darkened and dropped several degrees in temperature as the sinister Nykras emerged from a black, ooze-like portal from the ground, his skeletal, mummified lich’s countenance staring at Katina and Yaraslaf balefully. “I’m here to ssserve you, princesss.”
“How goes your preparations, Nykras?” asked Katina. When she was a child, Nykras terrified her. In fact, he was still terrifying.
“I’ve held many damned livesss in my body over hundredsss of yearsss,” replied Nykras, flexing his fingers, which looked more like pulsating tendrils of pure black. “I’ll make my way to Northuldra when Your Highnesss wissshesss, then unleash my thousssandsss of undead ssslavesss and warriorsss. The tribessspeople and even the nature ssspiritsss will have difficulty defending againssst them.“
“Good. I’m glad your preparations go smoothly as well,” said Katina. “Corrupt the forest of Northuldra and show them a terror that even Countess Viola Mundilfari and Hilde Von Altheim wouldn’t have visited upon the tribe.”
Suddenly, a soft boom in the distance shook the chandelier above them. There were muffled cheers from the troops in the Palace Square as what looked like a miniature comet shot towards the palace, the rumbling growing louder as the celestial object passed directly above the ceiling. Katina smirked. “The strongest among you, late to the party as always.”
“She’s here,” snarled Yaraslaf, grinning ferally.
“Sssora,” hissed Nykras, baring his skull’s teeth.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said Katina, nodding. “Your compatriot has been out of Russia for several days, and I expect her to report to me too.”
She made her way to the Nicholas Hall, the principal reception room of the Winter Palace. She stood in the centre of the princely, extravagantly decorated room as Sora appeared before her, levitating amidst a flurry of holy flames and angelic feathers. She was still in her Arendellian clothes, and as she landed, her entire body was consumed in sacred fire, burning away her clothes and revealing a much more medieval outfit of primitive metal armour. Only her striking red hair remained unchanged. The final and mightiest Grand Duke bowed her head. “Your Highness,” she acknowledged, as the soles of her boots pressed against the ground.
“Where have you been?” said Katina, hands on hips.
“In Arendelle, speaking to several people about the possibility of peace between our country and theirs,” replied the angel, standing up to look at Katina. “There are influential individuals that seek to avoid war, Katina. Conflict isn’t inevitable – if you’re willing to take the chance with Anna’s Entente of Small Kingdoms. Perhaps you might even maneuver yourself to lead it alongside Anna.”
“Russia will not acquiesce to the delusional demands of a group of kingdoms that will probably disappear soon anyway. Anna’s alliance is nothing more than a motley, cobbled-together mob that can’t survive against us great powers. All it will take for it to fall is some divide and conquer, sewing of dissension, and subversion and internal betrayal. But that comes later.” Katina raised an eyebrow. “Who were these people you spoke to?”
Sora shook her head. “That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that you consider their opinions.”
“You’re mine. You will answer.”
Sora gave a small smile. “I obey you in many things. Disclosing the names of those I speak to isn’t one of my obligations. This isn’t to insult you, but to protect them. I know better than anyone your passion for personal vendettas. If you had their names, ‘I have no doubt that you’d pursue them with a disproportionate vengeance.”
Katina stepped closer to Sora. “Are these people that worth protecting?” she asked thinly. “For you to shield them from me?”
Sora closed her eyes, giving a small smile at the memories. Of Alan, Michael, Danny, and Anna herself. “They’re good people. We had a good time. So yes, my princess. Their identities aren’t your business.”
The tsar’s daughter suddenly felt a primal rage welling up from within. “Why the disobedience? I won’t ask again!” she snarled, raising her hand in a clenched, threatening fist.
“Your temper’s getting the better of you,” observed Sora, completely serene. “As usual.”
“WHO?!” shrieked Katina in a fit of manic entitlement and fury, backhanding Sora across the face.
Sora had bent her knees slightly and given way to Katina – but it wasn’t to protect herself. Rather, it was for Katina’s sake.
“Gaaagh,” moaned the princess, wincing and clutching her hand as she recoiled from her own physical assault. “I think I broke a couple of knuckles,” she admitted, feeling utterly humiliated. She still stewed with rage at the angel, the incredibly powerful and beautiful being that had taken care of her all her life.
“How many times have we gone over this? You’re lucky I turned the other cheek in time,” said Sora calmly. “Striking me is like hitting concrete. If I’d stood my ground, you’d have injured yourself.” She took Katina’s bruised hand, cupping it in her palms and cradling it tenderly. Katina stared at the angel sourly as the latter closed her eyes, her touch repairing cut flesh and reinforcing bruised tendon and dislocated bone.
“There. Good as new.”
Even though there was genuine and heartfelt tenderness in Sora’s words, Katina yanked her hand away from Sora’s gentle grasp. She glanced at the guardian angel darkly. “I’ve been surrounded by court enemies since I was four. I expect my servants to report everything to me.” She bit her lip. “Betrayal doesn’t come suddenly. It starts with a meeting, like what you’ve had with whoever it was in Arendelle. It always starts with an idea, a little seed planted in the mind. Ideas that germinate and grow like a wild vine or uncontrollable weeds. In a court where power and survival are paramount, I don’t want to lose any of my supporters to such poison.”
“Don’t be so insecure. I’m not just your supporter; I’m your protector. I won’t leave you. You have Nykras, Yaraslaf, and me. If unchecked, paranoia will destroy Russia. And I’m your servant, true, but I’m not your child. I was in Arendelle to explore alternatives to war, to help you. I don’t need to explain myself to you.”
Sora peered at the sullen princess. “I’ve watched over you since you were a helpless infant. Do you think it’d be so easy for me to find it in my divine heart to betray you? When I’ve known every member of your family since they were babes?” She smiled sadly. “Oh, sweet Katina. What happened to that smiling, giggling toddler that liked to slip my wings’ feathers in her scrapbook diary? One of the people I spoke to – I’m still not giving you their name – told me how important Elsa was to them, that she was family. I could see why they’d fight so hard against us, why we’d lose many, many men before we’d even have a shot at defeating Anna’s best. Surely you understand that when our armies go to war, we risk destroying entire families, and that will motivate anyone to do anything to protect their loved ones. Wouldn’t you hate to see your own family risk its own in a war – especially one that doesn’t need to happen?”
“Family. Hmm.” Katina stared at Sora’s beseeching expression for several moments. “What about me, though?” she asked Sora quietly. “I’ve always fought for family. My family, my Mother Russia. You might have enjoyed the company of the Arendellians, but it’s time for you rally to your true family, the Romanovs you have served for centuries, and our Rurikid ancestors before us.” She raised a brow. “If Anna accepts Russian suzerainty over the north, I can agree to many ideas, even an alliance. But she won’t accept even joint administration. So I’ll take what I need to fulfil my father’s wish.”
“We should explore every possibility,” said Sora cautiously, as she slowly got on one knee. “Even if that means delays to your plans.”
“No,” denied Katina. “The call is now the Arendellians’. In fact, we’ll accelerate our preparations to show Europe we mean business,” she declared, snapping her fingers. The door to the Nicholas Hall boomed open, revealing the massive Yaraslaf and his stretched, furry arms. He swaggered over, the floor shaking with each step he took. Meanwhile, a necromantic puddle resembling black tar swirled beside Sora, and Nykras’ twisted, thin body emerged, swathed in an ancient robe and wispy hair draping down from his skeletal face. Flanking Sora, he and Yaraslaf also kneeled before Katina.
“Our cartographers and strategists have finished mapping out Arendelle and the regions we need to take,” said Sora, her back turned to them. “Yaraslaf, talk to your commanders. You lead the Baltic Fleet as admiral to bombard the first line of naval defences. I have no doubt Anna will entrust this critical theatre to her general, Mattias. Nykras, I entrust you to lead your undead army against Northuldra, to defeat the tribespeople there. Don’t underestimate them – they’re led by Honeymaren and Yelena, formidable allies of Anna’s… not by to mention Amira, that dread huntress.”
Nykras nodded. “And the four nature ssspiritsss, of courssse. They mussst be dessstroyed too.”
“Which leaves the Fifth Spirit. She’s yours, Sora – your task will be the most difficult of all,” said Katina, “and that’s to strike at the heartland of Arendelle itself – to shoot down like a world-ending comet and break the final and most resolute defence of Elsa and Anna themselves!”
Sora bit her lip, staring at the ground in silence.
Katina began to snigger wildly, heart dancing as she heard the troops’ cheers of, “ROO-SI-YA! ROO-SI-YA!” outside the Winter Palace.
“None of them will stand a chance against you, Grand Dukes! Sora, the Fifth Spirit’s rime magic will be no match for your celestial fire! Dethrone her little sister, the queen of Arendelle, and bring her crown to me!”