By Michael, trade minister of Arendelle (@of_michel)
If there’s one thing to say about my niece, Queen Anna, you know that she is a real firecracker full of energy and positivity! Only our friend Tileke’s energy seems close to “out-Anna-ing” Anna! I watched as those two fireballs shopped in the square. It made me tired just watching them! But even the brightest firecracker can burn out. I got concerned about Anna one evening when I had Kristoff over for dinner at the famous Lonely Reindeer restaurant. As we talked over important business, the subject of Anna came up.
“You need to see this, Uncle.” Kristoff said as he handed me Queen Anna’s schedule. Kristoff looked positively nervous as I read the sheet with horror. Kristoff said that as of this moment, well after ten in the evening, she was still holed up in her study. “Yeah,” he said, shrugging his shoulders as I shook my head in incredulity. As the queen’s fiancé, he would have been the first to admonish Anna for such a ridiculous timetable, but here it is before you.
*~ WEDNESDAY, FOURTEENTH OF APRIL, 1844 ~*
5:30am – 6:30am: Get up; morning routine
7:00am: Breakfast with Kristoff; daily papers
7:30am – 9:00am: Talk to Honeymaren about latest developments in Northuldra
10:00am – 12:00pm: Policy discussion with Vi and Elsa
12:00pm – 2:00pm: Lunch with Mattias; visit military garrison
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Dockside visit, ribbon-cutting for several new shops
3:30pm – 5:00pm: Break and afternoon tea with Elsa at home
5:00pm – 6:00pm: Kingdom Hall opera and social with Vi and Luna
6:15 – 8:30: Dinner at Arendelle Castle with inner court
9:00pm – 10:30pm: Games night with Olaf and Sven
10:00pm – 11:00pm: Bedtime for Kristoff, bring him hot chocolate
11:30pm – 12:00am: Supper and inner court discussion with Elsa
12:30am – 2:30am: Work alone in study
3:00am – 4:00am: Early morning bath and get ready for bed
I could hardly believe the daily “schedule” of the queen. It was less of a schedule and more of a relentless barrage of important matters, one after the other, that left one hour of sleep for Anna each night.
“She can’t live like this,” I said to Kristoff, gobsmacked. “This isn’t just ridiculous. It’s unhealthy. She’s talking herself into a stroke or worse! This is not good.”
“Yeah. I told Anna it’s plain stupid. She’ll collapse if she does more than a few months of this, and that’s pretty crazy already.” Kristoff sighed. “Look, you’ve got to help me out here. I’m busier than ever with Bjorgman, and Anna’s burdens are heavier than either of us could have predicted. She claims she’s taking a day off tomorrow, but I need to handle some shipments that can’t wait. Can you please stay with her? Even if only to make sure she actually rests instead of working?”
As we all know, Kristoff had been handpicked by Anna to be the Gold Reindeer, the second member of the Exalted. As tai-pan of his company of Bjorgman, which had the moniker of the Princely House, he was one of the pillars of Arendelle’s economy, and increasingly, a world player in business and finance. Despite all this going on, he was worried about his queen. He knew he could trust me to do the next right thing for Anna’s sake. I said, “I understand. Besides, the ministers are on recess for a couple of days, I think a day with Uncle would be a good thing for us both.”
“Thank you,” Kristoff cried to me, visibly suppressing the urge to give me a big hug. I said: “Just go with the urge, bud!” And we hugged!
“You don’t know how much this means to me – or her,” he said.
“I hear you, buddy. She needs a rest,” I replied.
After handling some important documents I and the ministers approved for Bjorgman House, we said goodbye and headed home to Arendelle Castle. Upon arrival, Kai lead me to Anna’s study, where she spends much of her time when she’s not out and about on the streets of Arendelle. On the way, Elsa met me. We hugged and shared the same concerns as Kristoff did. Then Elsa, Kai, and myself proceeded to Anna’s study. Knock, knock, knock-knock-knock, knock, knock, knock, I rapped on the door with a tempo only Anna and Elsa recognized. “I’ve got this,” I told Kai and Elsa.
“Who’s there?” came Anna’s faint, sleepy voice from behind the door.
“It’s Uncle Michael,” I said, while lowering my hand.
“Oh, did Kristoff send you to take care of me?” She seemed as playful as ever, so that was something. “Please, come in.”
When I opened the door, Anna lifted her head from her folded arms on her large mahogany desk. Treaties, letters, and secret documents were scattered all around. Her wheat stalk-patterned jacket hung by the corner of her tall chair. I mumbled “Holy Reindeer!”
When she saw me, she quickly stood up, as humble and egalitarian as ever: “I’m sorry for keeping the door closed. I had a feeling Kristoff would ask you to come to me, since we’re family. I just sometimes feel that I need some privacy to do my work. Every person needs their own private space, even if it’s a very small space. And others can enter it only with their full consent. Don’t you think?” She was so tired, she was slightly incoherent.
“I agree, Anna, but we’re worried about you,” I said.
She smiled, grabbing her jacket and hurriedly putting it on. “And here you are, in my private space, when I’m tired and at my most vulnerable. How does it feel?”
“Forget about that, Anna. How are you?”
“I’m alright,” she says weakly, but her voice isn’t very convincing. “I am,” she reiterates, as if sensing I didn’t quite believe her. I pointed out that Her Majesty had visibly dark rings under your eyes. “What? No! I’m dressing up! Like a panda – you know, those cute furry animals that populate the forests of the Celestial Empire? They’re so adorable, and I thought I’d pretend to be one as I prepare for this trip to the East.”
“With all due respect to you, my dear niece, you look more like a black-eyed susan!” I said.
Anna gave me a bit of her mean look, but then relented after realizing I was still there, glanced at me bashfully. “Ugh, my already lame jokes are especially stupid when I’m exhausted.” She slumps, hanging her head. “You got me,” she says helplessly. “I’m… I’m on the verge of losing it.”
Gazing at me with eyes shining. She asks, “You’re here to ask me to have a rest, aren’t you?”
I said, “Yep. Kristoff asked me if I would see that you indeed take a day off. I’ll be honest with you, you look like a wreck! That schedule you’ve got yourself into right now is going to do you in! Let’s call it a day and get some sack time. Tomorrow, we’ll sleep in and make plans from there. Sound good to you?”
Anna said “Ugh. I’ve been soooo busy and now I feel like a collapse coming on. Lead the way, Uncle. Will you join me outside the palace gates in the morning?”
I said, “Yep. It’s a date!” She gave me a light and respectful kiss on the cheek, and we hugged. “You still have a bit of time to think of what you’d like to do with me.”
“We’ll think of something tomorrow morning,” I said.
Elsa helped Anna with a warm bath and got her into bed. I did the same, and after a night spent resting while mulling over Anna’s situation, I met her freshened up self outside Arendelle Castle. She looked much better. “Well, here I am,” she says happily, spinning around in her day outfit and watching you watch her. “What are we doing on my day off?”
My first thought was a day at the Nokk Club, but that was a stinkeroo, because we’d be right there, with a lot of people wanting a piece of our time and attention. So that was out. Lunch was still a great idea and when Anna was younger, she loved bright, breezy picnics. So I suggested to Anna to go on a picnic together up in the hills. Just the Queen and her ever-lovin’ Uncle.
Anna clapped her hands together excitedly. “That sounds marvellous! But I didn’t prepare a hamper for us!” she cried in disappointment.
“No problem,” I replied. “Let’s do a shopping trip down in the village square.”
“Of course!” Anna said. “The Fjordspring Festival might be drawing to a close, but there’re still plenty of groceries we can get for good deals.”
Anna and me hurried to the royal kitchens and fetched some utensils for the picnic. Then we strolled leisurely from Arendelle Castle across the bridge to the harbourfront, and I pulled out a list of ingredients for sandwiches, punch, scones and clotted cream. “Perfect,” cried Anna. “This is a perfectly manageable picnic; with the little time we have to prepare.” Together, we bought bread and fresh scones at the bakery, then some fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles at the grocer’s stall in the plaza. “Don’t forget lemons for our punch!” says Anna. The fishmonger had some delicious lutefisk – dried whitefish – which Anna wanted to enjoy. Then we headed to a shop for imported goods, where a new shipment of strawberry jam and clotted cream from Devonshire in Britain has just arrived. Both jars were expensive, but you spare no kroner in making this picnic special for Anna. Also, the shop had received some new Mild English pipe tobacco from England. I had grabbed my pipe and matches from my study, so I got an ounce of the pipe tobacco to go with me for later.
“We’re all ready,” cried Anna in delight, having bought a hamper for her time with me. “Let’s go! Shall we head up into the woods near Oaken’s sauna?”
“That’s an excellent spot!” I exclaimed. Let’s go!”
It was lunchtime when we approached the woodlands near the upper foothills that lead down to the kingdom. Kristoff and Sven weren’t around to take us up, but we managed to fill in the time quite well by talking about her life as queen and how we could work together to make the kingdom a better place. I noticed how my niece, Anna, had matured tremendously, yet didn’t mind harmless small talk. Her eyes lit up whenever she was wondering what Elsa was up to. She didn’t seem inhibited at all when she shared her thoughts. I’m the same way with both my nieces.
We arrived at a great spot. So I laid out the picnic blanket, which Anna brought along from the castle. It was special to her, because it belonged to her mother, Iduna. She would bring it along whenever she and Agnarr took the family out on picnics. Now, she was using this blanket for our picnic. Anna flopped down onto it, eagerly taking the foodstuffs out from the hamper. “Let me make the sandwiches,” she offered, holding up a butter knife and growling jokingly. “I make mean ones.”
“Oohhhh I know that, for sure!” I declared.
As I made the lemon punch with a large glass bowl and jug, Anna prepared, with surprising domestic skill, a range of veggie and fish sandwiches, as well as the sweet dish of scones with jam and clotted cream. We raised glasses to each other. “Cheers!” cried Anna. “A toast to you for making me stop to smell the flowers and see some sense.”
“I’m glad to do it,” I said. We poured ourselves some of the lemon punch into our glasses. I proposed a toast. “To you, my niece. For being a wonderful monarch, steering Arendelle and Northuldra so wonderfully, and leading us through the war with Katina.”
She gazed at me, after drinking and lowering her glass, her cerulean eyes shining. “I like being kind. I love to love. I find it hard to live any other way. And to be desperate, vengeful, or power-hungry just doesn’t feel good. Yet, when we have nothing else, that’s all we can be. I need you to remind me constantly that I don’t need to be desperate. I don’t need to gaze into the abyss to gain some big insight. I already have Elsa. I must not lose sight of her even as I seek to protect her.”
Then her demeanor got more serious. “Katina Romanov of Russia… what a woman. She’s the one who set me on my present path. Our war compelled me to see if I can protect Elsa and Arendelle forever through this mystic thing called the elixir of life. In her own way, she spurred me on to join the Exalted and help Lord Yixin because she very nearly destroyed Arendelle. Destroyed Elsa. And if either of those things had happened, I’d be destroyed too.”
She then smiled and took a swig of punch. “And I have you, too.”
“Thank you.” I humbly said. “It’s my pleasure. A toast to Katina as well. I had the most heartfelt conversation with her. I told her that of all of what she lost, the war, the seat and Sora, she did win one thing from Arendelle, especially after losing Sora.”
“What’s that?” Anna asked.
“New friends who love and care for you,” I answered.
“You’re so right, Uncle,” Anna said. We toasted Katina.
I knew that Anna’s love for her sister was truly a force of nature to behold. I gently reminded her, “To be queen or leader, you must embrace the power and authority wholeheartedly to be able to make a true difference, whether for her sister or for her people, but never let that ‘servant-leader’ aspect ever depart. That’s what along with love, makes the difference between true leaders and weak ones.”
She agreed, and we let the matter rest – after all, Anna has indeed wielded power wisely so far.
The picnic meandered on into the late afternoon, with me and Anna wolfing down the delicious scones with jam and cream for a sweet treat, before she laid down on the blanket, gazing up at the clouds in the sky under the shade of the trees. I had sat in front of the tree and filled my pioe with the new tobacco for a relaxing smoke. We continued chatting away when she suddenly fell quiet. I turned my head only to see that she’d fallen asleep.
“Poor girl.” I mused to myself. Anna must have been truly exhausted after pushing herself so hard. I let her sleep. After all, today was to let her get some rest.
I scooted over to Anna’s side. She was sleeping on her back, eyes shut lightly even as she was far away in dreamland. I suppressed a chuckle as I saw drool sliding lazily from her slightly parted lip down her chin. It brought back memories of when she and Elsa were kids. Two cute, cherub-faced girls when their parents, Queen Iduna and King Agnarr, had put them to bed after playing in Elsa’s snow. I looked in on them when I was at the castle visiting. Those were such happy times before the accident. Now I found myself gazing at this wonderful, beautiful young woman, amazed at how much Anna had grown and matured into the lady and ruler she now is. She took my hand gently, murmuring something, then continued snoring away. I let my pipe go out and got some kip as well.
When I woke up, I realized that the we’d spent the entire afternoon here. Anna was then gazing at me when our eyes met.
“Oh,” she mumbles, blushing. “I’m sorry. I was just studying you, kind of. You’ve a wonderful countenance.”
“Don’t sweat it. It’s your right to look at this old, gray, wrinkled and weather-worn countenance with plenty of well-worn miles on it” I joked.
“Oh, Uncle Michael!” she mused. But I soon realized that she’d taken my jest with the utmost seriousness. As we talked while on our way back to the village heart of Arendelle together, I felt now more than ever, that to be close to Anna’s heart was no joking matter. Not for her. Indeed, although she invited me to dinner, she spoke very little as I joined her in Arendelle Castle’s dining room. There was a palpable vulnerability about her as I finished my meal, and when it was time for me to leave and do some light Bible reading in my office, the queen gave me a silent hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Did you have fun today?” I asked Anna. She nodded silently.
The next morning, she invited me to breakfast in the royal dining room. Kristoff, Olaf, Danny and Elsa was there too. Kristoff asked his fiancée: “How was your day off?”
The queen answered, “I’ve spent the whole day in Uncle’s care,” as she turned towards me. It was a great day we wished we had more of, but a holiday without end is no holiday, just unemployment and no paycheck! And a queen is perpetually, unrelentingly, in the employ of her people. But there is one change that Anna promises, and that meant everything to myself and Kristoff: “That old timetable of mine is going in the bin. I think Kai will be happy that I’m going to draft a new one – one that lets me ask you out more often.”
I added: “It was my pleasure. I’d do it again on one condition.”
“What’s that?” Anna asked.
“Don’t ever forget this guy across from me, Kristoff. You both are now working like engineers on a runaway train. Take time for each other.” I suggested.
“I promise.” Anna said, and kissed me on the cheek.
What else could be said after such an encounter, when so much of herself was shared with me? I think she needed a moment with a father figure after her parents died in that shipwreck so long ago. Whatever the sentiments, just like the time I spent with Elsa in Northuldra, this meant so much to both of us.
One thing is for sure: it’ll be a memory that we both treasure for a very, very long time.
From your Trade Minister and a loving, caring Uncle to the two best nieces in the whole wide world,