Warning: Violent depictions
Featured image “Baltic Brawl,” by Arute (@ast05water)
The sun had risen magnificently over the fjord, the rays of light touching and warming the wharf. But even though she was standing by the docks on her usual morning walk, Anna wasn’t mindful of the beauty today. For in the distance she could hear the booming rumble of cannons, the cries of Russian and Arendellian soldiers, and somewhere in that tumultuous struggle for Sudden Death, the island across from Arenfjord, Mattias was there with Hilde, holding off Yaraslaf. Elsa was keeping Danny company, while Sven and Olaf were accompanying the citizens evacuating to Keep Mundilfari. Uncle Michael and Alan were acting custodians of the palace while Anna focused on the war. That left only…
“Hey.” Anna turned her head at Kristoff’s voice. “Thought you’d be here.” The tai-pan of the Princely House was in his beige casual ensemble, and his brown eyes were kind as he observed the exhausted face of his queen and future wife. “Babe, you need rest. More than any of us,” he urged. “Mattias and Hilde have got this down. You can get some shut-eye for a few hours, at least.”
“Maybe you’re right. I’m glad you’re here, sweetie. I need a mountain man to lean on.” Anna took Kristoff’s oaken arm and rested her head against him. She breathed in his protective, masculine scent – fresh pinecones, mint, and the slight odor of reindeer fur.
“I want everyone in the kingdom to feel as safe with me as I do with you,” she whispered.
“I know Mattias and Hilde will come back to you. To us.” Kristoff put his arms around her waist, leaning down and pressing his forehead comfortingly against hers. His much bigger nose pressed lightly on hers, and she giggled appreciatively, but stopped laughing and blushed when she found herself gazing into Kristoff’s serious face up close.
“You have the best of the best following you, ready to lay down their lives for Arendelle. I wish I could have persuaded the Austrians to help us more. I’m so angry my efforts to reach out ran into so many obstacles. But I’d rather be around you, to make sure you’re okay,” said Kristoff.
Anna closed her eyes, inviting a kiss, and Kristoff gently gave her one, before guiding her head to rest on his broad and comforting chest. “You’re carrying all of us,” he whispered, his heart aching with love for the petite woman in his arms. “Have faith in Mattias as everyone does in you. I bet he and Hilde are winning the battle right this moment.”
On the deck of the heavily damaged Poseidon, Hilde and Yaraslaf circled each other, hungry for the other’s blood.
With cannons blasting and screams and hollers of fighting troops in the distance, Hilde lunged at Yaraslaf first. She launched herself at him from all fours with lightning speed. Yaraslaf also charged, his Moonscape Halberd aiming for Hilde’s head. Hilde leaped up and hurtled down at Yaraslaf, slamming into him and digging her claws deep into his fur. She plunged down, mauling him with a mighty bite of her jowls. He growled at the pain in his shoulder, grabbing Hilde with one paw, and squeezed hard. The werewolf grunted as Yaraslaf casually snapped several of her ribs, before hurling her away. She ignored the injuries as she quickly regenerated her snapped bones, rushing him again and swiping wildly at him with her claws. Yaraslaf blocked her blows, which would have been enough to tear apart any normal human being, and spun his polearm, astonishingly agile for his immense bulk. Hilde dashed forward, pressing her assault, and struck at his furry leg. He stumbled, and she leaped at him again, swinging both her arms at him and slashing ten rows of deep gashes into his massive chest. He roared in pain and fury as Hilde slashed at him again, this time across the face, her claws drawing trails of gore that stained his white fur. Her pace gathering even more speed, she clawed at his stomach, narrowly missing disemboweling him, and clamped down on his arm, her teeth crushing into flesh and bone. She danced away, she-wolf face snarling, as he staggered up, bloodied and bruised.
“Not bad. You’re fast and strong, and you actually managed to hurt me. I admire that,” he growled softly, “but even you, werewolf, will have to do better than that.”
He sprinted at Hilde, spinning his polearm and roaring. Hilde eased into a crouch, preparing to dash away. But Yaraslaf suddenly stopped in his tracks, faking her into a path of retreat that he quickly seized on. “Now I see where you’re going!” crowed the Grand Duke, as he suddenly aimed his polearm at her and executed a ferocious, extensive thrust that send his weapon’s moon-shaped head slicing into Hilde’s furry midsection. The crescent blade hummed with magic light, searing Hilde with crippling energy. Hilde’s canine eyes widened as she coughed blood, the inner side of the Moonscape Halberd’s crescent cutting into her. Yaraslaf cried out in triumph. “No more leaping and scurrying about for you,” he shouted. He pushed harder, and Hilde howled in pain but managed to stagger away. Whimpering and lurching about, she clutched her stomach, trying to regain herself but failing. Her weakened body, off-balance, tipped woozily off the edge of the fore. “No! Get back here!” Yaraslaf’s eyes narrowed as he rushed to look over the gunwale, pupils darting back and forth to see if the waters had any movement.
There was nothing, not even a splash to indicate where she’d fallen.
“Damn it!” he growled.
After several moments of thought, he raised his head. “Everyone abandon ship,” he bellowed, and his surviving sailors looked at him in surprise. from the quarterdeck to the mainmast to the forecastle. “You heard me,” he barked. “Change of plans. Pride of Elsa and Nobility are still out there. Let Scylla and Charybdis handle Muspelheim. Move all our armaments and equipment onto shore, instead. Once we get our foothold there, we’ll have already won half the battle. We don’t want to be stuck out at sea fighting Arendelle’s navy. Everyone get a move on! I expect all our equipment and supplies on boats and on shore by the time I’ve finished mopping up the enemy!”
And true to his word, he launched into the air with supernatural strength, roaring in exhilaration as he leaped all the way from Poseidon’s ruined deck toward the ongoing melee by the coastline. The entire beach and the hills beyond were dotted with Arendellian and Russian corpses. Howitzers and other artillery lay fizzling, smoking, and destroyed, while exhausted troops continued to fight on, the lines having completely collapsed and many battling hand-to-hand. Yaraslaf’s soldiers, the MCG, and the Arendellian main force were still locked in a fierce and weary stalemate, but now it was his turn to enjoy himself. He slammed into a battalion of Arendellians, sending their broken bodies flying.
“Your admiral is here!” he bellowed to the Russians, raising his fist-paw, as the Arendellian troops stared at his towering, overwhelming presence in horror. “Take heart, and take this damn island!”
The Russian troops, reinvigorated, rallied and cheered as Yaraslaf’s arrival sent a palpable shockwave among the Arendellians. Even the Court Guard, whose faces were hidden by silver masks, looked at each other, unsure if Hilde had been slain. “Come on!” bellowed Yaraslaf, thumping his chest as he advanced from the beach. “My race lives for battle. Don’t disappoint me!” He howled in delight as the surviving Court Guard – there were only a dozen or so left – hurled themselves at him, only to be hurled aside by Yaraslaf’s overwhelming strength. He grabbed an MCG and slammed her into the ground, before decapitating another with his halberd. He let one thrust his sword into his arm, before grabbing him with a paw-hand and squeezing him until he went limp.
“The day of the Romanovs’ double-headed eagle flying over Arendelle Castle is nigh!” cried the Grand Duke, as the surviving Arendellian troops desperately fired their rifles at him, their bullets not hurting enough to stop his advance. He lashed out with his massive arms, hurling three Arendellians away and crushing the bodies of two more. He swung his Moonscape Halberd, its head humming with magical energy, and swung it, slicing apart five defenders. The Russian troops, decimated but not destroyed, advanced, preparing to set up encampments. Yaraslaf advanced, singlehandedly finishing off the increasingly demoralized Arendellians, until –
BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. Several rounds from Sergeant Severin’s revolver sent bullets flying into Yaraslaf’s head. The veteran commander sprinted fearlessly at the werebear, thrusting his sword into Yaraslaf’s leg. Yaraslaf groaned, blood pouring from his skull, only just barely surviving the multiple headshots thanks to his superhumanly tough and hardy body, and counterattacked, lunging forward and grabbing Severin in a bear hug with both thick arms. “Let me go, you polar bear,” growled Severin, unnerved by the werebear’s speed but still glaring defiantly at Yaraslaf.
Yaraslaf grinned. “In just a moment!” he crowed, as he tightened his grip, squeezing the breath out of Severin and crushing his bones. His fit but old body arching unnaturally, Severin screamed as he felt Yaraslaf destroy his joints, ribcage, and finally his spine. A clean, devastating snap was all that was needed. Only after Yaraslaf was satisfied that he couldn’t even hear Severin’s weak wheeze, did he let him go, allowing Severin’s limp body to fold onto the ground. Severin groaned, unable to even move.
“You managed to actually hurt me. I’m starting to feel myself weakening, thanks to your and Hilde’s blows. My compliments.” Grunting, Yaraslaf was about to move on when he saw that distinctive face and his white cloak. “General Mattias,” he breathed, Severin forgotten already. “We meet at last.”
Mattias and his remnant soldiers came too late, having fought their way past a stubborn Russian division. Nursing his wounds and pulling pellets out of his injured head, Yaraslaf stepped back to give himself time to recover, but also to let Mattias rush to Severin’s broken form. “Severin, I’m so sorry,” said Mattias in dismay, as they gazed at each other. “Why didn’t you wait for me?”
His prone form on the bloodsoaked and dusty ground, Severin coughed out gore, chuckling weakly. “Wait? Have you seen this guy? We’re going to have to throw everything we have at him. Don’t hold back.”
Mattias gently lifted Severin’s head. “Am I too late?” he asked quietly.
Severin smiled. “He got my spine and my organs are ruptured. I can feel the life flowing out of me.”
Mattias tenderly took hold of Severin’s hand. “You’ve served with honour. I know this much: Anna will be crying over your coffin. You’ve helped her so much since she began her reign. She and I will never forget you.”
Severin grinned weakly. “My God. What an honour to know that. Everything I’ve done… all that I’ve lived and toiled and fought for… was for the queen.” He looked up at Mattias one last time, his voice a rasp. “The big and ugly bear is hurt. Just keep at him, no matter how tough he seems. He has to fall sooner or later.” His eyes glazed over, and Mattias bit his lip. “I join… the wild spirits.”
Mattias slowly closed Severin’s eyelids and stood up from his body, turning to face Yaraslaf. “You’re going to pay for all the harm you’ve caused and the people you’ve killed,” he said coldly.
Yaraslaf shrugged. “It wasn’t anything personal. Severin, I heard you call him? He was an enemy, we fought, and I won. Simple as that. He was honourable. Full respect.”
“Shut up. In the name of the sovereign, Queen Anna – I’m Destin Mattias.”
The Arendellian general’s dark eyes were filled with glowing, silver magic flowing from his raised shield and sword, for they were borrowed from Mundilfari armoury. The silver was capable of hurting and killing monsters of all kinds – including Yaraslaf. Mattias enjoyed the Grand Duke’s grim expression as he raised his shield. “Supreme commander of the Arendellian army and navy. And I’m here to drive you and your ilk out of Arendelle forever!”
“Shields!” he cried to the remaining men and women around him, and they formed a phalanx, advancing slowly as Yaraslaf snorted and swung his polearm, bashing into the formation and sending the soldiers flying back. But then the remaining formation suddenly opened, with Mattias charging out and taking Yaraslaf by surprise, closing the gap with him. Yaraslaf couldn’t step back in time as Mattias sent several quick but deep and well-placed thrusts into Yaraslaf’s leg. Yaraslaf, already bleeding everywhere, screamed in fury as he felt the sting of blessed metal, of Mundilfari-forged weaponry. Mattias spun, bashing his shield against Yaraslaf, who staggered back, body smoking from the blessed metal of the shield. He pressed the advantage, slashing a deep wound across Yaraslaf’s chest with his blade. Yaraslaf riposted with a swing from his Moonscape Halberd, smashing back the rest of Mattias’ troops but missing the general, who bashed his shield against Yaraslaf, who doubled over, coughing blood. Mattias roared and thrust his sword upwards, just barely missing the Grand Duke’s head but cutting a new vertical wound across the side of his face. Yaraslaf bellowed gutturally in frustration, staggering back and, in one lucky blow, lashed out with a paw and struck Mattias’ raised shield. The force of his punch sent Mattias tumbling to the ground. Yaraslaf lumbered up to his sprawled form and kicked him viciously, and Mattias felt several ribs crack. “Oof!” The general felt his body rolling along the sandy, weedy ground, the world a blur.
He’s… he’s impossible. He’s so strong! And Russia has two others like him? Dazed and wild thoughts of defeat swirling in his head, Mattias felt his vision go blurry. Panicking but in shock, he clutched his side, moaning. “Get up, Destin,” he growled to himself. “Get up and protect your queen and kingdom!”
“You bastard,” snarled the Grand Duke, blood pouring from his wounds, so much so that his fur was soaked in his own blood. “You hurt me even more than Hilde! Your weapons are no doubt special. But it’s over now!” Yaraslaf raised his Moonscape Halberd high above his head, his shadow enveloping the prone Mattias.
“And now, general of Arendelle – YOU – DIIIIIIIEEE!” he thundered, swinging his weapon down in a mighty, lethal strike to slice Mattias into two –
“Mattias!” came a familiar yell. Having raised his arm in desperation, already prepared to be cut down, Mattias could barely see the bedraggled, soaked form of Hilde as her exhausted form hurtled from the shore’s lapping seawater and dashed in front of the general just in time. Already grievously wounded in the stomach, she had reverted back to her human appearance, her blonde hair soaked and matted. That didn’t stop her from blocking the downward arc of Yaraslaf’s polearm with her own body. It was too late for Mattias to even scream in protest, and Yaraslaf didn’t stop as the force of his attack sent the polearm cleaving right down Hilde’s shoulder and past her chest, all the way down to her waist. She felt Yaraslaf’s blade embedded in her thigh, and she could hear his shocked voice, which quickly turned into mocking laughter.
Suddenly soaked in his comrade’s gore, Mattias’ eyes widened. “NO!”
As she felt her body sundered and split apart like a piece of meat cut by a butcher’s knife, Hilde’s world should have turned black, but all she could see was red.
Blood? No. The beautiful red irises of Viola Mundilfari.
Her sarcastic smile, those pointy vampire teeth. Her rich brown hair, and her otherworldly beauty. And that voice. She could hear Vi’s voice, arrogant and sassy, yet yearning for love deep down.
“Hilde… you’re all mine. Don’t leave me.”
Oh, shit. Hadn’t Anna also just asked her to come back safely?
And she never got to have a rematch with Elsa, either.
Hilde’s yellow eyes fluttered shut.
ARENDELLE’S DARK DEFENDER…