Featured art “Comfort,” by Arute(@ast05water)
By Michael, trade minister of Arendelle
During the Russo-Arendellian war, my column went on a short hiatus. I was helping Queen Anna oversee the affairs of the Royal Household while the conflict raged on. We lost some good friends such as Sergeant Severin, while those like Commander Hilde Von Altheim took a massive hit while fighting Grand Duke Yaraslaf the werebear. Yaraslaf and Nykras have been defeated and the Russian forces defeated. The war is won. However, it is tempered in deep sorrow.
I was hoping to restart my column with a happier story. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
We lost a very dear, loving, and tenderhearted ally in Sora, who was a fallen angel and the guardian of Katina Romanov. Katina is the princess of Russia and the sovereign leader that launched this whole invasion. My own heart is still aching over the loss of this fiery and valiant, yet gentle and loving soul. She departed this world tragically. She was working to try and make Princess Katina see the error of her ways and forget this useless war. It was a plan that Sora and Elsa had planned early on. Instead of spearheading an all-out assault on the kingdom, Sora faked the fight we witnessed, and Elsa threw it to make it look like Sora won. Katina’s rage was so much at a fever pitch with Sora, she proclaimed:
“I release you from the service of the Romanov family!”
Katina realized too late what she did in the heat of her anger. We were so angry with her and what she did to this wonderful, angelic friend. Katina went from anger to panic to complete brokenness and sorrow. All I remember was the bitter weeping and mourning that day.
Some time ago, Sora gave me a torn page of a doodle Katina had drawn when she was five. It was in the princess’s scrapbook, and for some mysterious reason the angel had given it to me. I had it in my coat pocket all this time. When Sora was dragged to hell I was so furious that I pulled it out and angrily slung it at Katina. It really seemed like the right thing to do… but Katina had also felt dismissing Sora was the right thing to do. Like her, I also regret what I did. I embraced Katina after I picked up a remaining feather of Sora’s. I couldn’t stay angry at a hurting, crying heart that just realized what she’d lost. Not the seat at the Exalted, not a war and a kingdom, but a trusted, close, loving friend who guarded her family of the Romanovs for centuries.
My niece, Queen Anna, made a wise choice in letting Princess Katina stay in Arendelle Castle as a guest while the Armistice was being drawn up. That way, I had the chance to talk to Katina.
I was walking toward the balcony that faced the westward opening of the fjord, where Elsa heard the vuelie call from Northuldra a year ago. It was also the same place where Sora and myself had talked before the war. As I came out with my cigar in hand, I saw Katina, with that piece of her scrapbook of her drawing of herself and Sora. She was staring at it with teardrops running down her cheeks, falling onto the page as she softly wept. I put my stogie back into my pocket and asked, “Your Highness, do you mind if I sit with you?”
At first, Katina looked up at me and shook her head. I nodded understandingly. “Okay. I thought you could use someone to talk to. Sorry.”
As I turned, she looked up sadly and said, “Wait. Please join me here.”
I thanked her and sat beside her on the bench there. “Your nieces, Queen Anna and Elsa, the Snow Queen, speak highly of you. You were angry with me when you threw this at me, but then you just… hugged me, like Sora did when I was a child. Why?”
“I couldn’t stay angry with you. Especially when the consequences of what you did made you realize what you had done and who you’d lost. I can’t be angry at someone who was so crushed and broken. You needed to know that we cared and loved you,” I said.
“All of those mean, horrible things I did to her when I grew up. The things I’ve said to her, and yet, she loved me still. I ordered her to fight, but she defied me, angering me further. She’s now gone and I hate myself for not apologizing over all of those cruel things I did. My fury and obsession overwhelmed me to the point I banished a true friend that I need so much now!” A tearful Katina leaned towards me, and sensing her trust, I hugged her. I could almost feel the brokenness in her. She was so… small and light.
“Why, why were you so angry and set on warring with us?” I asked.
Katina pulled away and wiped at her eyes. “We’re a great and proud country, but we’re also a broken one. Any Russian that says otherwise hasn’t lived like a Russian Since the Mongol invasions we’ve known nothing except outside incursions. Our imperialism has always been defensive, to consolidate what we had and to seize territories of old masters. Well, at least these were the stories I grew up with. Sora was a constant presence and my court and, for many years, pulled me on a gentler path. I thought that I could be a different ruler when it was my time to ascend the throne.”
She smiled bitterly. “Then Elsa and Colisa went and destroyed me father’s dreams of reuniting with the homeland of the original princes of Kievan Rus’, our medieval homeland. Papa – I mean, Nicholas I – was humiliated and never the same. I wondered how and why such a small kingdom had defeated him. Ever since I was a little girl, all the books I read had told of small but strong nations having their way with Russia, marauding and looting. So I began to plan. I found and recruited Yaraslaf, and reawakened an old family friend, Nykras. And, of course, I’d brought Sora on board, who I now realize put up with so much from my… my utter crap… that I’m surprised she didn’t slap me down and put me in my place. Maybe she should have.” Her eyes shone. “I accepted the Exalted’s invitation because my father entrusted me to become a master of world affairs. My hatred and anger was building ever hotter for Elsa and Arendelle. Then Sora told me about Elsa becoming the Fifth Spirit. I think I lost it at that moment. Arendelle wasn’t just a subject of my mad vengeance. It was the prize, especially with Elsa at the centre…”
As Katina reached the crescendo of her tale, she visibly deflated. “All of this to gain, and yet, my vengeance, my rage and anger at Elsa, took a terrible toll on my friend, my guardian angel, Sora. She was like a mother to me. I’m so sorry now. I realize now, painfully, that my revenge cost me Sora. I forgot how much she meant and still should’ve meant to me.”
“Did you ever find out who Sora spoke to during her visit to Arendelle? When she asked Anna to just surrender to you to avoid bloodshed?” I asked.
“No.” Katina’s jaw dropped. “She did such a thing for me? Oh, Sora…” She shook her head and regained herself. “I guess she did have a secret correspondence with someone. I saw parts of burned letters. Who was it and whom did she meet?”
“Well,” I said, “she spoke to Queen Anna, Sir Alan, and me. Her private correspondence with me took off afterwards. It was my honour to keep her private thoughts about you and the war strictly between us. But I think I owe it to you to say this now.”
“You!?” Katina asked in surprise. “You need to tell me more now.”
“She told me how much she wanted to know: what happened to that happy little girl that so loved her special angel? What went so terribly wrong to make you enraged at the world? That’s why she planned this ruse and offered to lay down her life for yours in front of Regent Yixin, who wanted you dead. Sora wanted so badly to know what changed and to repair the loving relationship you both once had. She couldn’t bear to see you spiralling into self-destruction over vengeance and greed. Sora loved you unconditionally.”
Katina scooched in and laid her head on my shoulder. I blinked in surprise, moving my arm aside for her. “This is the first time I’ve ever trusted a man to touch me like this, other than my father,” she confessed quietly. “Sora said about that someone in Arendelle who was tenderhearted and loving. I think she meant you.”
“She told me herself,” I answered, feeling comfortable with disclosing everything now. “I may have my faults, but I strive to be a gentleman and a good friend. I trust Anna, Elsa, Viola and Hilde, and Tileke say the same about me. You may be an enemy, but right now, you also need a friend who will listen, comfort, and love.”
“Thank you, Comrade Michael.”
“You’re quite welcome, my friend.”
As Princess Katina sat back up, she asked: “I still miss Sora, but I’m also ashamed of myself. I didn’t know my dismissal would violently banish her like that. I’m slightly pleased that she meant a lot to you all in Arendelle, and that… that princess, her name was Danielle, no? I didn’t just lose her, but also took her away from you. It seems so unforgivable.”
“I think I can safely say that we forgive you, especially after seeing you so vulnerable. The one person who has to forgive you is… well, you. We say and do so many things in the heat of rage, especially during a war. But I can tell you that we always regret it later, especially when we lose someone so near and dear to us. Sora’s banishment back to the abyss has left a hole in our hearts, and an even bigger one in yours. I forgave you after I saw you so broken and distraught. I just couldn’t stay angry with you. She loved you and cared only about your wellbeing. She’d want you to forgive yourself and love yourself and others.”
I beamed at her. “If you can do that, you’ll be alright. I promise. In the meantime, me and the other Arendellians will be here for you.”
Katina thought about it, then looked at me and said, “You are what Anna said about you. Loving, caring, and wise.”
I blushed and said, “Weeeeell…”
And then we laughed, breaking the tension. It was my first time seeing the edges of Katina’s mouth edge upwards. I’d never seen her laugh before. And I’ll share this with you, dear reader, as hard as it may be to believe: this fierce royal’s voice is surprisingly gentle and melodious, and when she looks happy, she looks, well, angelic.
I like to think that Sora lives on in her.