Featured image art “Supreme commander,” by PURY (@puryartist)
Thank you for taking care of me for all these weeks. By the time you receive this, I’ll be halfway back to Saint Petersburg. My flagship will be in the North Sea, perhaps a short distance from where my Baltic Fleet and your naval coalition first exchanged fire. I burn with shame for having directed the late Yaraslaf against your allies and inflicting so much violence on Queen Colisa, the Duke of Weselton, and even Hans, all of whom you’ve told me plenty about during my time in Arendelle.
The fact that you’ve treated me, your invader, so kindly and compassionately after my own catastrophic mistake, should be a source of eternal shame for me. That’s the one point that you and I will always differ on: that you, in your eternal optimism and kindness, feel that you can forgive me once I’ve made amends for my cruelty. You’re wrong. My debt to you for giving me another chance to lead Russia, the way Sora would have wanted me to, will last long after my death.
I miss her.
I can make a first step by imparting to you more information about the Exalted, which you’ve expelled me from. You’re a quick one – you already know you must make a pilgrimage to the Forbidden City, to hold court with Lord Yixin. He’s going to share with you the true purpose of our society, one which I also swore to uphold. This goes deep, my queen. The Exalted’s outward aim is world government, to control every continent and corner of the globe in the name of equilibrium. However, this isn’t an ordinary political campaign. We’re amassing so much power and wealth for the sake of a great search.
The search for the ultimate prize since prehistory, the elixir of life, the draught of immortality.
You may scoff in disbelieving mirth, but rest assured. When you’re in Peking, you’ll hear exactly the same thing from Yixin. It’s what he imparted to me, Harrison, and Peony, many years ago.
Soon, Peony herself will meet with you at a time of her own choosing. That damned agent of Yixin’s – I never got on with her. She’s the Sapphire Phoenix, Yixin’s longtime favourite. You told me that he’s named you the Emerald Dragon. I urge you to take action and appoint the Ruby Tiger and the Gold Reindeer as soon as you can. You must reshape the Exalted in a way that suits you. Expel Harrison if you need to – not because I also dislike him, but so that the Exalted will truly be yours. The prince regent has offered you an unprecedented chance. Uncomfortable as you may feel, you must seize it. You’ll need all the power you can muster, for Arendelle to be a great power and fulfil the grand task that Yixin has passed on to you.
And me? I’m going back to my palace for a long period of hard self-reflection. But I’ll be here for you if you need me, Anna.
Use my advice as your weapons against your foes.
How long had she lain unconscious for? Days? Weeks? Months?
A great polar bear’s maws. His deadly axe swinging at her face. The depthless embrace of the salty, freezing sea. That was all she remembered before time seemed to stop and thought itself ceased.
Colisa groaned, unable to move an inch. Her limbs felt like thick logs that she couldn’t budge.
She didn’t know for how long or how hard she swam. She just did it. Swimming, swimming, swimming even when she physically couldn’t. For she loved life, she loved her people, and she loved Chatho. She would never let herself drown, even as she bled out and her muscles screamed in pure agony. Oh, and she loved Anna and Elsa too. Anna had needed her help, and Colisa gave it. She didn’t want either sister-queen to feel abandoned. She’d been there for them as kids, after all: why not now? She was only sorry that she wasn’t able to resist the Russian Baltic Fleet for longer.
She heard echoes of children’s voices, ringing incessantly in the darkness of her own mind. The sound of cannon fire. And then… the sound of an unfamiliar voice.
Colisa, queen of Chatho, opened her eyes groggily, spitting out water as she glimpsed a grey and quicksilver sky. Her robes were absolutely soaked, and her rich black hair spilled out across the grainy, rough sand. Sand? She coughed out more saltwater, trying to take in her beachy surroundings, but her head was still spinning and she could barely focus. A shadow fell over her, and the coastal sun illuminated her appearance: mischievous brown eyes, dark hair done up in rebellious pigtails, and a bright-patterned jacket with light armour underneath. “Yoohoo!” came the figure’s friendly cry.
“Hello,” rasped Colisa weakly. “Who are you?”
“Heya, Your Majesty,” said the outlandishly garbed young woman, putting up her hand and giving a cheeky salute. “I’ve been looking all over the Baltic for ya. The name’s Tileke, and I’m here on behalf of Anna to take the queen of Chatho back to Arendelle.”
“Anna…” Colisa let out a soft moan. “The queen of Arendelle. My longtime friend. Do you know her?”
“Couldn’t be on better terms!” cried Tileke. “I’m her ally – supreme commander of the Ottoman armies, at your service! Oh, and – ” The youthful Turkish general winked and poked her tongue out. ” – Anna’s someone much more, now. The war with Russia is over. She won. You won.”
Colisa stirred again, stunned but too tired to express surprise.
“That’s… incredible. So my assistance wasn’t in vain. That’s heartening news for a weary woman lost at sea, Tileke. You hail from the land of the Bosphorus and Anatolian plains?”
Dazed and confused, Colisa tried to sit up, but she could only turn her head weakly. “Where am I? Where are my men? Why am I all alone?”
“Ummm… they’re all gone,” said Tileke, scratching her head. She wasn’t being mean-spirited, but rather saw little point in sugarcoating anything. “They all drowned, and honestly it’s kinda a miracle I even found ya. My ships have been searching the seas for over a week.”
“What about my Ten Tigers?” moaned Colisa, “my kingdom’s best?”
“All gone too, girlfriend. Sorry.”
Colisa gritted her teeth. Despite her wet face, it was easy to feel the tears prickling the corners of her eyes. “Bhikruti… Rahula…” She swallowed her welling grief, looking up at Tileke. “If your heart is true, I thank you for rescuing me all the way out here.”
“Couldn’t be truer,” replied Tileke. “I’m here to bring ya back to Arendelle. Anna’s freaking out over ya and she’ll be over the moon when I tell her I’ve found ya.” She dipped down and hauled Colisa up, easing her against her shoulders as she began to guide her back to her Ottoman ship. “Ya better get ready for a bit of a shock, too. When I said that Anna’s become someone much more, I meant it.”
Colisa groaned. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on, or will you keep me in suspense?” She nodded at her pointed golden hat, which lay on the sand a short distance from her. “And help me get that, please.”
Tileke smirked. “If I told ya, ya wouldn’t even believe me. Best that ya hear everything from Anna. All I can say is: get your bags packed; ya won’t have much time to rest. Anna’s become the leader of the Exalted and she needs ya with her when she sails to the Forbidden City.”
ANNA’S PRIVATE VOYAGE WILL SOON BEGIN.
IN THE MEANTIME, ANNA’S RESHAPING THE EXALTED INTO HER OWN IMAGE!