Featured image art by PURY (@puryartist)
The inner court had been assembled.
The beautiful Countess Vi, no longer regent but now having returned to her usual post of prime minister, stood alongside Commander Hilde on one side of the queen’s hall, at the right hand of the throne. Seated on it was Anna, who surveyed, with modest solemnity as well as a winning smile, the assembled women and men on her left side, who were facing Vi and Hilde: Elsa, Kristoff, Mattias, and Honeymaren.
“I’ve briefed trade minister Michael and Sir Alan about my next move, and now we’re ready,” declared the queen. “In liaison with Peony Sinclair and Queen Colisa of Chatho, the other members of my new Exalted organization, I wish to launch my search for the fragments of the elixir of life.”
The inner court exchanged nervous and terse glances with each other. The air was electric. At last, it had begun, and no less at a make-or-break time of diplomacy with Japan.
Anna was making good on her promise to Lord Yixin for being catapulted to international prominence.
“How are we going to do this?” said Vi, pursing her rich red lips. “Like all of you, I’ve read Anna’s briefing. Four fragments of a relic that we don’t even know the appearance of, four corners of the world: how can we balance marshalling resources and manpower without arousing the suspicion of our allies and adversaries?”
“The big question,” agreed Elsa, putting a finger on her chin, her right elbow nestled in her left hand. “Anna’s more famous and renowned as ever, and she’s received more attention than any monarch of Arendelle, ever.” She smiled at Anna. “But that comes with a price: the eyes of America, Prussia, Brazil, and many other countries are on you. If word gets out that there’s an elixir of life – “
” – not only would the Exalted itself be compromised, but Arendelle would be exposed. Everyone would be after us. And, most importantly, the world would know of a potion of immortality, the Holy Grail itself,” said Kristoff, his voice worried.
A chill rang through the room.
The ultimate prize, worth dying for.
A world war.
“That’s why, according to Anna’s brief, we’re going to do this on the Exalted’s terms. There’s a reason why a secret group was founded, to pursue Lord Yixin’s original goal in the shadows,” said Mattias. “There are four general regions where the previous generation of the Exalted tracked down the elixir fragments: South America, somewhere in Europe, the Silk Road in Central Asia and the Middle East, and somewhere in the winter lands of far eastern Russia and China.”
“Each Exalted member is going to focus on one region, and each member will command their own group,” said Anna. “For example, I’ll oversee the region of Europe, with Elsa by my side.” She fluttered her eyelashes at her sister and the Northuldra leader.
“I suppose Hilde and I get to go with my ex, Peony herself,” said Vi, smirking. Hilde shuffled uncomfortably as Vi gazed at Peony. “We’ll focus on the region of Inner Asia. I haven’t worked beside Peony for a long time.”
“South America is Colisa’s assigned domain, and she’ll work with Mattias to locate the fragment there,” said Anna, drumming her fingers on her lap. “We’ll have help from our friends up north, from the United States, as well as friendly liaisons within the Empire of Brazil. And finally, Kristoff will work with Honeymaren and Tileke to leverage his business contacts across Africa and Arabia to bring Bjorgman’s resources and financial muscle to the search for the final fragment of the elixir.” Kristoff gave a friendly salute.
“I don’t think you need to be reminded that this will be one of the greatest long-term undertakings we’ve ever attempted. We’re basically taking up the work that Peony did when Yixin, Harrison, and Katina were Exalted members. Now, it’s our turn to secure the elixir of life.”
“There is, of course, one minor issue,” said Vi, vampiric eyes glinting.
Hilde nodded. “Chang’e. Yixin’s mother, and our great, immortal obstacle to the elixir.”
“That could be a problem,” joked Kristoff.
“After she cast Yixin down as a Moonborn and exiled him to Earth, Chang’e fled mortal matters and has since not interfered in the history of humanity,” said Elsa thoughtfully. “But if the Exalted were to begin moving again, would the remaining Moonborn – her children – be stirred to action?”
The inner court of Arendelle glanced at each other in worry.
“These are the offspring of the moon goddess,” said Vi, raising an eyebrow. “As powerful as the great elements themselves, and second only to Yixin in all his brutal glory. If they resist us, or amass local forces against the Exalted…”
“We could have a truly bloody fight on our hands, all around the world, while also having to handle the scrutiny of other nations,” said Mattias, shuddering at the thought.
There was a palpable silence among the assembled friends.
Anna’s face was confident yet serious. “I have my responsibilities to Elsa, to this kingdom, and to my Exalted. I’ll execute them, no matter how great the obstacles. And…” She lowered her head. “I know that the conflict between Chang’e and Yixin is more complicated than he lets on. I might be following his decree now, but I’m my own queen, and Arendelle is its own kingdom.” She gazed at Elsa, eyes flashing. “We’ll act, but according to our own agenda and guiding light. We might be opposing the Moonborn for now, but there’s every reason to talk to them. Especially once we see the elixir fragments for ourselves.”
She stood up from her throne. “Elsa. Kristoff. All of you. Can I count on you to lend me your strength and support for this great odyssey of many people and many hearts?”
The inner court nodded together, firm in their resolve and devotion to the queen of Arendelle.