Featured image art “The inner court” by PURY (@puryartist)
Hi, everyone! Since returning to Arendelle, I’ve had more time to continue my personal column in this newspaper: it’s one of my favourite ways to reach as many people as possible, and I like to think my column will be a fair but heartfelt bellwether for my hopes, difficulties, and worries.
When I became queen, I told the kingdom right after my coronation that I wanted to be a different kind of leader, someone that could offer something different to past monarchs. I think my policies and vision for Arendelle will speak for themselves, long after I’m gone. Even if historians consider my reign to be a mediocre or even a failed one, they won’t be able to say that I didn’t aim high. I’m reaching for the stars, quite literally. Let me explain why.
The Exalted, which I now lead, is an ancient society of world leaders that was formed to find the fragments of a long-lost elixir: whether you call it the Holy Grail, the Philosopher’s Stone, or ambrosia, this is the fabled potion of immortality that humanity once possessed – until a war beyond the heavens, among the celestial bodies far above us, deprived us of that elixir.
That elixir wasn’t for everyone, to tell you the truth: its creator, a goddess who knows the spirits of Northuldra, had intended a select group of leaders, who’d have proven their wisdom and goodness, to lead humanity forever.
Such leaders were never found, and a terrible experience with her mortal spouse who’d become a tyrant, led her to deny humankind immortality.
When Elsa almost lost her life in the war with Russia, I wasn’t just confronted with the visceral prospect of losing her again – I also had to face the question of my own mortality. I was always scared of losing Elsa. But with her now as the Fifth Spirit, her losing me is a much likelier prospect, and barring anything horrible like Nykras or another foe, my mortality will deprive her of my protective presence much sooner.
The years will wear hard on my immortal sister. I won’t have to face such pain, but she will. Maybe it’s my own weakness or delusion, but I feel as if I must make an effort to at least explore why this elixir is so sought after by my benefactor, who’s been at war with the goddess since time immemorial.
These two parallel fears: the terror of losing her again, but also of the pain that she’ll go through when she inevitably loses me – drove me to seek answers. I believe I can find the answer I need with the Exalted, which has sought the elixir of life since ancient times. With my leadership and my reforming this group into something more benevolent, I believe that I can seek the elixir my own way: one that doesn’t lead to self-destruction and tyranny.
I know many of you will be scratching your heads. The kingdom will surely have many things to debate about, and I’m going to have a lot of questions in the Great Assembly. The press will be very busy too, and as usual, I’m ready to engage with our vibrant and civic society because I have faith in my agenda.
Still, I implore you for your support. Guide me on the straight and narrow. I’m going to embark on the most ambitious odyssey of my life.
Anna had promised to get more sleep, to make up for her exhaustion. But since coming back from China, the queen wasn’t getting much rest again. After all, she needed to not only secure support among her parliament and court for the Exalted’s activities, but also to ensure Selene’s loyalty as her new chief of intelligence. This was done in the utmost secrecy, in the early hours of the morning, just before breakfast. Light hadn’t even broken on the horizon of Arenfjord. The waters shimmered as Anna sat on her throne, hunched and pensive. Candles were lit in two dramatic rows, revealing Kristoff, Mattias, and Elsa standing to her left, and Honeymaren, Selene, and Vi to her right.
The meeting of the inner court had begun.
“You vouched for Selene to succeed Sergeant Severin, prime minister,” said Anna, a lightly closed fist below her chin while her free hand drummed the hand rest. “I’ve gotten to know Selene a bit better too, but I want to move quickly and decisively. Our Ravens need leadership, and Vi says that you can step into the void your uncle left behind.”
“Specifically, your tenacity and your ability to gather intelligence,” piped up Vi, looking at Selene with her sharp red eyes. “I was once on the receiving end of what you could do, and Arendelle’s enemies should fear what you can offer.”
Selene bowed her head. “I’m surprised by your willingness to engage me, but if you want me around, I’ll serve the throne with everything I have. I’m working things out with Hilde, but even in my darkest moments I had nothing but loyalty to the crown. Now, Your Majesty can make use of that loyalty.”
“You know, Selene, I’ve made friends of many who once called me their enemy. Katina Romanov – we should hate each other, but I’ve felt nothing but compassion for her. Vi, who might not have coveted the throne, was still a shadow ruler that I had to convince to share power with me. Amira of Northuldra – she terrorized Arendelle’s powerful and forgetful, and the cause she fought for wasn’t wrong. I had to turn her destruction into something that could protect instead. And now there’s you. I firmly believe that if you truly want something, even if it doesn’t come in the form you expect, the spirits will push you toward that which you desire. So if you really want reconciliation with the royal family, and a chance to do something meaningful with what Sergeant Severin’s left you – then I swear to you I’ll do everything in my power to help you accomplish that.”
Selene stared at Anna as she finished her passionate speech. “I accept your job offer.”
Peony raised her voice, silver eyes gazing at Anna. “Selene will be critical to our search for the elixir of life. Your Majesty, now is the time to delegate tasks to your members, so that we can cover the most ground.”
Kristoff and Elsa looked at each other in slight discomfort. True, Peony had been guiding Anna for much of the way even before the Russo-Arendellian War, but events in the Celestial Empire revealed the extent to which Peony was invested in Lord Yixin’s success – and Anna’s role in executing said success. Vi’s red eyes also glimmered thoughtfully as she gazed at Peony. This much was true, though unspoken: the inner court was wary that Peony might end up being a kingmaker, or even a power behind the throne.
But for now, Peony’s advice was sound. “I’ll focus on Northern Europe and manage my international relations from here,” said Anna. “Peony, East Asia is your domain. You know the Celestial Empire and its neighbours best, and you’re also well-placed to counter and future mischief from Harrison. Kristoff, your trade has taken you far, and I think you’re well-placed to manage relations with southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and our small footprint in Arabia. Colisa’s kingdom of Chatho has established relationships in the Americas, and that’s where her focus will be.”
Elsa gazed at her sister in pride but also concern. “One region of the world for each member.”
“That’s right. All of you have been given names to reflect your leadership, just like me, the Emerald Dragon,” said Anna, her voice always friendly but with an extra dose of solemnity. She was more mature than she first ascended the throne, and her sober aura could be sensed by all who were present. As the doors open and Uncle Michael, Sir Alan, and princess Danny walked in, Anna gave a small smile. “From today onwards, we work as an ever-tighter team, looking out for each other at every turn. We have so much to do, and I place my full trust in all of you to bring us closer to the elixir of life.”
She shared a long a poignant gaze with Elsa.
“This,” said Anna softly, “may be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”