Featured image art by Inkwhite (@Inkwhite_mo)
It was a quiet evening in Arendelle Castle, which now doubled as a temporary home for the kingdom’s most prominent countess and her retainers. In olden times it would have been crushing, humiliating, for Vi to be driven from her own residence of the Grand House on the foothills of Arendelle, and to seek shelter with the currently absent queen. But for the First Vampire, it was perhaps better this way: she cared a lot less about appearances now, and she was more interested in protecting those close to her, Tess and Hilde. There was nothing wrong with crashing at Anna’s, anyway: Her Majesty had made Vi, already the prime minister, effectively regent while Anna was in China.
So Vi, her werewolf guardian and general Hilde, and her human attendant Tess slowly got used to life in Arendelle Castle, with Vi even moving some of her Mundilfari paraphernalia into the home of the royal family – something that would have been quite unthinkable during Agnarr’s or Elsa’s reigns. The Mundilfaris, influential as they were over Arendellian affairs, were feared, and their dark association with black magic and the demon Mephistopheles forever tainted their name despite their standing among the Scandinavian nobility.
But to Anna and Elsa, Vi’s items – ranging from an old family bible dating back to the 16th Century to an ornate silver dagger gifted to the Mundilfaris by Hilde’s own werewolf clan, the Von Altheims (a statement of total loyalty and trust, since lycanthropes are vulnerable to silver) – were as part of the royal family’s history and domestic life as Kristoff, or Danny and Alan.
“Could it be Hunt, my Lady?” said Commander Hilde, who was standing as attentively as ever with her hands behind her back. She faced the crackling fireplace in the games room, staring at the dancing flames. It felt rather empty without Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff around. Hilde and Vi often tried their best to spend time with Olaf and Sven, but it was even more awkward without Anna around to mediate between their very different personalities. “The cultists serving that former Exalted member might have left England’s shores, and have a vendetta to pursue against us.”
“Yes, that’s what Uncle Michael suggested. Perhaps. Or Hunt and my harasser might be accomplices,” replied Vi, one slender leg crossed over the other as she sat back on a satin chaise longue of luxurious red. She shook loose her high heel, absently flinging it back and forth with her toes. “Thanks to Selene Severin’s help in the library, I’ve compiled a list of all the longstanding enemies my family has made over the centuries. You can imagine that we made many, since Scandinavia has been our home for a long time. If I remember the family history right, we migrated here from the Germanic heartland after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.”
“We studied this period as children back in Arendelle Girls’ School,” said Hilde. “It was called the Merovingian Age.”
“Yes, an age that we pioneered, which led directly to the glorious age of exploration that people so simplistically call today, ‘the Viking Age,'” sniffed the mistress of the night. She turned her head to her side to look up at Hilde, her lifelong guardian. “There were many clans that claimed descent from that cold, harsh period – the era of Norsemen setting off in their longboats to plunder the monasteries of England, work for the Byzantines as Varangian Guards, or enforce the Pope’s will in Italy. Among the families on my list, only two stand out as having posed a true threat to us: the House of Vinter and the House of Hellström.”
She smirked wistfully. “In my more toxic days, I imagined our family to be far superior to the much younger bloodline of Elsa and Anna, the royals. I suspect the Hellström and Vinter clans would have been similarly snobbish.”
Hilde shifted slightly. “My family served yours in many clashes against the Vinters and Hellströms. The Vinters were the most enterprising of you three, controlling many trade networks to the European heartland and to Russia. The Hellströms wanted to overpower us with military might and very nearly succeeded at certain points. Only your ties with Mephistopheles gave the Mundilfaris an edge by the time of your grandfather, Mayer – and it came at a terrible price.”
Several moments of silence passed between the two powerful women as they pondered over the past while enjoying each other’s company. “… so, my Hilde?” prompted Vi, her slender fingers and perfectly manicured nails drumming the armrest of the chaise longue. “What do you think of the hypothesis that one or more of our old enemies have returned to Arendelle to wreak havoc against me?”
“There’s something off about all this,” said Hilde, “and I know you can feel it. Even if there were descendants of the Vinters or Hellströms in Arendelle, surely they wouldn’t be resorting to such petty means to make their presence known. Furthermore, they know about your vampirism. Even if they’re related to one of the old clans, they have too much information not to be someone who has direct access to you – who may be watching us even around here,” she added, looking around the walls of the games room.”
“Anna, spying on me and then slandering me?” snorted Vi. “Absurd.”
“It’s not Anna, and it shouldn’t be anyone in the immediate inner court. But your tormentor could well have escaped their eyes. My Lady, I want to tell you that I’m going to investigate myself,” said Hilde, putting a hand over her chest. “I’m your enforcer… your executor. I can no longer stand by and watch you take on this hidden harasser alone.” Her wolf eyes shone and her smile was sad. “You’re struggling, and it’s time to let Tess and I in. Whatever you think about your past with Anna, you must not see this as some punishment that you deserve.”
Vi slumped in her seat, sighing. “You can always see through me, Hilde.” Hilde reached down and put a hand on Vi’s, and the latter squeezed Hilde gratefully. “Very well. You can investigate in my stead. But since you do such a good job of everything, my expectations will be high.”
Hilde nodded. “Expect only the best from me, my Lady.”
The werewolf warrior tucked her mistress into bed, before enjoying a dreamless night herself. When she awoke and ensured that Vi was feeding on a consenting Tess, she got the details of the Countess’s recent activities in the library and headed to the great collection of books. She walked among the shelves, peering back and forth, until she saw a dark-haired lady rummaging through a large pile of books. She was wearing a simple plaited blouse with hair done in pigtails. She poked her head out from underneath covers of bound leather and hard paperback. Hilde gave a small smile, and the young woman smiled back.
“Hello there,” she said in her high but pleasant and reserved voice. “May I – ” Her eyes widened as she stood up, staring into Hilde’s yellow eyes. “Is my gaze deceiving me? Are you Hilde Von Altheim? The Commander Hilde whose name has become a legend among the Arendellian military?”
“Ah. So you’re Selene. The Countess sent me to you, so that I may have assistance in helping her with the investigation.” Hilde nodded at the librarian. “Thank you for helping my Lady. You can trust me as well.”
Selene smiled sweetly. “A friend of Vi’s is surely a friend of my uncle’s.”
Hilde started. “… Yes. He fell on the frontlines, helping Mattias and me fight back against the Russian Grand Duke Yaraslaf. My apologies for not thinking of you before mentioning him,” she said glumly. “He was an estimable soldier, and irreplaceable. Of this I’m beyond certain.”
“Don’t feel sad about my uncle. I like to think you and the others valued him as part of the team and protected him accordingly.” Selene Severin smiled up at Vi, her expression friendly and kind. “In any case, I think it would be a good idea to explore the possibility that either or both of the Mundilfari clan’s ancient enemies could be stalking the Countess. Perhaps you’d be willing to let me assist? Perhaps together, you and I can help the First Vampire get to the bottom of this more quickly?”
Hilde nodded. “For my Lady, and to protect those she cares about like Danny, Michael, and Alan, I’m willing to do anything. What’s our first step?”
WHO HAS EMERGED FROM THE SHADOWS TO TAKE ON THE MUNDILFARI HOUSEHOLD?