Featured image art by Inkwhite (@Inkwhite_Mo)
It was a quiet morning at the Grand House that overlooked the hillside of Arendelle. It was an imperious structure, even though it was a significant downsize from Keep Mund in the Jotunheimen Mountains. “Pass the butter, sweetie?” requested Tess Gaunt, sitting at one side of the six-person, mahogany dining table, where Hilde and Vi joined her for breakfast. Vi sat at the head, and she silently passed the silver butter keeper (all the silverware had been transported from Keep Mundilfari to Arendelle) to Tess. The Englishwoman glanced at Hilde, who ate her usual fare – scrambled eggs, a piece of bread, and some fresh fruit – also in silence.
“Are the eggs okay?” asked Tess gingerly. “Do you need some pepper?”
“Hm.” Hilde’s grunt was warm and not curt, but her gold eyes couldn’t mask the fact that she was thinking about something, engrossed in her own thoughts.
“Leave her. She has Anna on her mind.” Vi took a sip of hot, fresh tea from her elegant cup. “We all are quite… overwhelmed by recent events and announcements coming from the palace.” She glanced at Hilde. “Aren’t we, Grandmaster of the Borealis Corps?”
Hilde nodded absently. “Do you have any idea what this means, my lady? Anna’s serious. She’s gearing up Arendelle for an almost… militaristic posture. Something that you and I both advocated when we were… well, serving Mephistopheles.” Hilde pursed her lips. “But now, we serve the goal of pursuing the elixir of life.”
Vi’s vampiric eyes shone. “Look how far we’ve come,” she sighed wistfully. “Anna has gone to a place so high that even I, who once thought of herself as the pinnacle of Arendellian political power, can only chase after and follow dutifully.” She noticed Tess’s concerned glance, and grinned a fangy smile. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m just reminiscing about the past, when I was able to give Anna an even fight. I don’t think it would be even close, now.”
Tess smiled wryly. “I promised you that whatever happened here in Arendelle, I’d support you and Hilde to the very end. I’m a foreigner, but my life is forever bound to yours. So, what goes on in Arendelle is my business. What’s happening?”
“Leave aside the fact that, as prime minister, I granted you citizenship in a matter of a few days,” said Vi, putting down her cup and stretching out her shapely arms on the table. “Now that Hilde has been made the commander of the Borealis Corps, and my Mundilfari Corps Guard has been subsumed into said Borealis Corps, we must ready ourselves for helping Anna to locate the elixir of life.”
“House Mund throws its full support behind the crown and the woman that sits on the throne,” said Vi, standing up as she heard a knock on the main door, beyond the living room and corridor. “And for that, we must be ready to take on the Moonborn.”
She glided over to the door, high heels clacking on her luxurious wooden floor, and opened the door to see a huddle of familiar faces. “Hello! We’re here, as per your invitation and Anna’s request,” said Uncle Mike, who was with Alan, who in turn held Danny’s hand.
“Hullo, Vi,” said Danny quietly, and after she’d given Michael a hug, Vi reached down, ruffling Danny’s hair gently.
Alan also embraced Vi, then gestured behind him, and standing at attention was Tileke, commander of the Ottoman army and navy. “Hey, Countess,” cried the Turkish young woman, giving a playful salute. “It’s been too long! The way Anna talks about ya, I’m sad I didn’t get to coordinate and work with ya sooner!” And beside Amira was a familiar face, with war paint and a wild aura.
“Amira,” said Vi, slightly startled to see the former Northuldra saboteur-turned-national heroine. “Well… hello. It’s been some time since we met.”
Amira smiled slightly. “Trust me, it takes a lot for me to get out of the forest and come to Arendelle. But Honeymaren knows me well.”
“Anna and I exonerated you after you agreed to help us against the Russians. And you did particularly well on a secret mission to Saint Petersburg. You and Maren were heavily injured in a clash with Yaraslaf.”
“That was the very first skirmish I’d had with a Grand Duke,” said Amira quietly. “Who knew that their wrath would touch and affect so many of us.”
“Exactly. As if that weren’t enough, you and she fought alongside Elsa against Nykras in Northuldra.” Vi’s eyes shone. “The ghosts of that battle still haunt Anna’s relationship with Elsa, and how she sees her own reign as queen. Still, you and Honeymaren are heroes beyond compare. I curse myself each day for having blamed Northuldra for my own servitude under Mephisto.”
Amira shook her head. “I’m not exactly in a position to judge you, Countess. I was Arendelle’s most wanted for some time. What does matter is that I believe that Northuldra is better working with Arendelle, even as we address the wrongs done to Northuldra in the past. I once might have been cynical, but like you, I have hope in Anna.”
“Tileke has been having a great time here in Arendelle, getting to know all of us. I’m really interested to visit Constantinople one day, too. It sounds beautiful with all its coffee houses,” said Alan, smiling. “And I’d like to catch up with the Grandmaster of the Borealis Corps, too. After all, Anna did make me a Captain. So I’ll technically be working and training with Hilde regularly.”
“Certainly.” Vi showed them in, and the guests settled into the living room before the warm fireplace. Tess sauntered from the kitchen, having overheard their arrival. “Here, everyone,” she greeted, setting down a silver tray of porcelain cups of tea with hot Earl Grey tea. “Welcome, welcome. Take a seat. Oh, Princess Danny! I’ve heard so much about you! You’re so pretty in person!” she exclaimed, as Danny smiled shyly.
Michael and Alan headed to the dining room to catch up with Hilde, who was finishing up her scrambled eggs and toast. Tileke plonked herself on the sofa, legs spread. Amira joined her, sitting much more modestly and putting her hands on her lap. Tileke looked up at Vi, winking.
“So. The Moonborn. Anna’s elixir.”
Vi’s vampiric face grew sterner, more solemn. “The things we do for our queen, right?”
“It’s not even for herself, really. It’s for her sister.” The Ottoman general leaned forward, hands clasped. “The Battle of Northuldra affected her more than any other recent conflict. Elsa almost lost her life. Something changed in Anna after that.”
“I know,” said Vi, and Michael and Alan looked at each other sadly.
Tileke grimaced. “I have Ottoman and Russian agents scouring many countries for any traces of the Moonborn. These guys leave no shadow behind. But if Peony Sinclair’s to be believed, and she’s the closest to Lord Yixin, the Moonborn are classes above Katina Romanov’s Grand Dukes. They’re in hiding, and they’ll show themselves only if they want to or if we force them out.”
Vi nodded. “Tileke, Amira – it’s time you joined forces with Hilde and I. Northuldra’s champion, with the Ottoman Empire’s best, backed up by House Mund, Arendelle’s greatest noble house…” Vi raised an elegant hand, clenching it into a fist – “… and, of course, me, the First Vampire. With our forces combined, we can complement Anna’s global hunt for the elixir of life and have a greater hope of taking on these so-called Moonborn.”
“Right,” said Tileke, rubbing her hands. She looked back and forth between Vi and Amira, winking. “So, then. Let’s talk strategy and start moving out.”
TO BE CONTINUED!