Featured image “War Map,” by Arute (@ast05water)
By Mikael, Senior Reporter for The Arendelle Guardian
ARENDELLE – The Baltic Fleet’s ships of Poseidon, Charybdis, and Scylla have been sighted making for Arendelle. Anna’s own navy of Muspelheim, Nobility, and Pride of Elsa are already anchored in Arenfjord, prepared to set out at a moment’s notice. Also standing by are the main force of Arendellian troops and Mundilfari Court Guard (MCG), either stationed aboard Anna’s fleet or garrisoned by the wharf.
Arendelle and Russia’s first major battle draws close. Both states ready themselves for a ferocious tug-of-war over the island opposite Arenfjord. This is a crucial strategic location. Whoever seizes control of the island will not only have a deep-water harbour for their ships, but also be in a superior position to attack or defend Arendelle (see Anna’s war room for how Anna and Katina are positioning their troops).
Without this island, Yaraslaf won’t be able to sustain a naval siege for more than a few days. Conversely, should Her Majesty lose this island to Yaraslaf, the Baltic Fleet will have free passage into the fjord and be able to bombard the coastline and castle with impunity.
So important has the uninhabited island suddenly become, that the soldiers have begun nicknaming it “Sudden Death” – for whoever possesses it will control the strait between Arendelle and the island, and therefore all possible routes of navigation.
General Mattias has a critical strategic objective: take the island and prevent Yaraslaf from gaining a foothold at all costs.
It was early in the morning: five fifty-two. Commander Hilde, the veteran soldier and werewolf that served Countess Vi, had arrived in Arendelle Castle for a secret meeting with her colleague, Mattias. Hilde was just approaching the queen’s study when she stopped. There was chatter inside.
“Hey, it’ll be alright. We’ve got the Ottomans on their way to Arendelle. Katina doesn’t know yet,” came Mattias’ gentle voice, which was lilting from behind the door of Anna’s room.
“What would I ever do without you?” Hilde heard Anna’s tired but grateful words and stopped, standing in the hallway and putting her hands behind her back, waiting patiently. “You’re more than just a general to me. You’ve protected three generations of my family. You’re more of a dad than my own father, Agnarr, ever was.”
Hilde could hear a tired giggle. “Papa Mattias.”
“Agnarr was still your father,” came Mattias’ even, steady voice.
“I’m sorry, Destin. I just feel a bit vulnerable.”
“I’m not saying I don’t accept your feelings, Anna. I’m really touched and honoured. I’ll work hard to be worthy of how you see me.”
“Ugh, I’m so selfish, even as you lose sleep over the defence of this kingdom. I’ll let you go now. Get some rest.”
“You’re exhausted yourself. It’s almost daybreak and you haven’t moved from your desk. Go to bed, for my sake.”
As Hilde expected, Mattias quietly stepped out of Anna’s room and closed the door behind him. He looked at Hilde, nodding silently.
“Everything all right with Her Majesty?” mouthed Hilde.
“Yeah. She’s just a bit exhausted and pensive. Walk with me?” replied Mattias.
Hilde nodded, and the military commanders slowly strolled downstairs and out into the palace courtyard, the moonlight still bathing them. It was winter and snowing lightly. The kingdom was covered in a light sheet of rime, and it was beautiful. It wouldn’t be dawn for at least three more hours.
“I just wanted to say… it’s been a pleasure preparing our defences with you,” offered Mattias, his hands also behind his back. “And I’m grateful for the fact that my men have been able to work with your Court Guard. Arendelle’s soldiers know best the terrain around here, but your men are something else – they’ve fought in more wars than I’ll probably ever see in my lifetime.”
Hilde nodded. “You’re quite the valiant champion yourself,” she acknowledged. “You’re the master of the Hest school of swordsmanship, the horse style, and have emerged from more than three decades of isolation in Northuldra to effortlessly take up your responsibilities to Anna. Now you’re ready to take on Yaraslaf with me. I only wish I could serve the First Vampire as selflessly as you do Anna.”
They left the castle gate and crossed the bridge, walking towards the now-quiet harbour. It was no longer the relaxed quay that everyone knew. It was now manned and guarded by a mix of Arendellian soldiers and the Court Guard, Vi’s private army. They stood or patrolled side by side, grim and quiet. The mood was one of sombre preparedness, for everyone knew that very soon, both Arendelle and Russia would enter into a vicious fight for control of the strait and Sudden Death, the island across from Arenfjord.
The Arendellian soldiers were garbed in tall hats and their signature dark green, double breasted coats. The MCG had similarly long coats and high boots, but their attire was ebony-black. Instead of regal hats, they wore distinctive dark hoods and capes that made them look like creatures of the night. Even more unsettlingly, on every Court Guard’s face was affixed a silver mask with the haunting expression of a screaming woman. Mattias outwardly recoiled just looking at them, and Hilde gave a small smile.
“Repulsed?” she asked. “You are looking at the shock troops of the First Vampire, after all. I command them, but only on My Lady’s behalf.”
“It’s just… unsettling.” Mattias shook his head. “Our army has always only fought defensive wars, unless you count Runeard’s foray into Northuldra an unprovoked attack. Your troops, though: they’re experienced killers. These men and women are like spectres of death. But I guess we do stand a chance against the Russians after all, and the Ottomans’ Mansure Army should be on its way, too.”
He raised his eyebrow as he looked at one of his soldiers, and then at the Court Guard beside him. The MCG glanced back at him and saluted, but his screaming silver mask made his gesture of respect oddly even more scary.
“Shall we go over the plan?” said Mattias. “I’ll sail to Sudden Death in a couple of hours and finalize the artillery defences. Yaraslaf will probably try to disembark from the south of the island, or the west. Muspelheim will sail up the strait up north and come around, hitting Yaraslaf from above.”
Hilde nodded. “Sink Poseidon and cut off Yaraslaf’s route of retreat. We’ll hold on to the island as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.” She looked pointedly at Mattias. “And together, you and I will kill Yaraslaf. I trust you enjoyed the access to my armoury?”
Mattias couldn’t help grinning. “I have to admit, it was pretty spectacular.” Hilde had lent him the keys to the vault of the Mundilfari armoury, which held weapons that could hurt and slay supernatural beings like herself – and since Yaraslaf was a werebear, he would hopefully be vulnerable to the Mundilfari weapons. The Arendellian army and the MCG all had been equipped with the supernatural-slaying armaments that would turn the tables on Yaraslaf.
“And the howitzers and guns?” confirmed the general. “They’re ready and manned?”
“Yes,” said Hilde, yellow wolf eyes glinting. “Any ship of the Baltic Fleet that dares enter Arenfjord will suffer a volley of fiery destruction. So I’m not worried… yet. For now, it’s the island we must retain control of – “
The lighthouse in the distance, which overlooked the entrance to Arenfjord, suddenly flashed several times in Mattias and Hilde’s direction. They looked at each other grimly, their discussion interrupted. It was all happening so quickly.
That was the signal.
This was it.
The Grand Duke’s fleet was approaching.
“For Her Majesty,” said Hilde, quietly confident but sombre.
“For Arendelle,” affirmed Mattias, hands cupping his belt buckle as he stared into the distance. “Let’s prepare a welcome that the Russians will never forget.”
NEXT: MATTIAS CONFRONTS THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE AS THE FATE OF ARENDELLE HANGS IN THE BALANCE!