Featured image art “Anna and Yixin” by Arute (@ast05water)
“The plan is as such,” said Vi, gliding restlessly in her living room while the seated Amira and Tileke stared into the crackling fireplace. “I was there when Anna announced it. Europe remains her domain of focus. Peony’s is Inner Asia, where all manner of dark forces and ancient powers lurk, and I’ll be there with her. Queen Colisa will manage South America, while Kristoff will lead Honeymaren and Tileke to the great continent of Africa and the lands of Arabia.”
“Sounds simple enough, but the logistics are actually quite difficult; and once we depart, we’ll be gone for a long time,” warned Hilde, who had come from the dining room into the lounge, with Michael and Alan flanking her. “My Countess, I’m going for a morning stroll around Arendelle, and then I’m going to train. May I be excused?”
“You don’t need to ask,” said Vi, nodding at Hilde. The new commander of the Borealis Corps bowed at the waist and left the vampire’s presence, while Michael and Alan waited behind.
“And what will you two fellows do?” asked Vi. Danny had fallen asleep, her head resting on Tileke’s lap as the Turkish commander gazed down at the ice princess protectively. The Countess examined her perfectly manicured nails, varnished an elegant vermillion. “You could help one of the Exalted hunt the elixir, or track down the Moonborn. Or, you could coordinate with me our movements around Europe, right here in the Grand House.” She shot both men a look. “I’m proud, but not a fool. You’re reliable and wise friends who have taught me much. I could use your help.”
Michael put a hand on Vi’s shoulder. “I’m here for you, Countess, just as I am for my nieces. I think I’ll take up your suggestion and stay by your side, assisting with our kingdom’s European movements. I’m still trade minister, and I need to manage the economy here.”
Alan nodded in agreement. “As a new commander in the Borealis Corps, I’ll stay in Arendelle, too, until Hilde needs me to go beyond the kingdom’s borders.”
Vi nodded. “You’ll find enough in Arendelle to keep you busy, anyway. Meanwhile, I have information for you about the regions our kingdom must now reach out to.”
Tileke smirked as she continued to stroke Danny’s brown hair. “Countess Vi, ever the strategist.” Amira watched them, smiling slightly.
“In Africa, there are diverse kings, queens, and warlords jostling for power. Arabia remains a distant outpost of the Ottomans, far from Constantinople. It’ll be an inhospitable and difficult place to find elixir fragments.”
“That’s where I come in,” crowed Tileke, shooting an arm up. “We Ottomans are still top dog in the Mediterranean, and we have access to the African ports and the Arabian heartland.”
Vi rubbed her chin, eyes glinting. “The situation in South America is getting very interesting. Independence movements are springing up all over the continent, seeking to overthrow the Spaniard and Portuguese overlords that have reigned over large parts of that land for centuries. There are a few new countries that we must deal with: Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In fact, the Brazilian Empire was only founded a couple of decades ago. Colisa will need to interface with this brave new world to the south.”
“What about your and Peony’s objective?” asked Alan.
“Inner Asia, from the ancient desert of the Gobi to the plateau of Tibet, is still a chessboard for the Russians and the Qing. Both Russia and China are at least our working partners, if not allies. So Arendelle will need to tread carefully, especially when there’s a Russian presence. After all, my old friend, Lord Yixin,” she noted sarcastically, “was partially responsible for Katina Romanov’s expulsion from Anna’s new Exalted. Speaking of which, perhaps the Russian princess might be a potential ally who can help us navigate this region.”
Michael let out a happy sigh. “Katina…! Does that mean that she might reach out to us in Arendelle again?”
Vi nodded, hands on her hips. “I’m counting on it. I’ve sent my men to Saint Petersburg to solicit her interest.”
Alan crossed his arms thoughtfully. “You’ve got this all thought out, Vi. The project has truly gone global.”
“Yes, but we have two major problems,” said Vi. “First, not even Yixin or Peony knows what the fragments of the elixir of life look like. We must hunt for clues and any informants who can help us find the authentic article. And furthermore, when we’re getting close to a fragment in any of the regions, we can’t be certain that there won’t be Moonborn watching us, or waiting to stop us.”
“I thought the Moonborn were in hiding,” piped up Amira, looking concerned. “If you say their power is beyond even that of the Grand Dukes…”
“That’s why Anna is mobilizing everyone – I mean everyone – for this search,” said Vi. “Everyone the queen trusts is involved in one way or another. This is no hot war like with Russia, but a task far beyond anything we’ve handled before.” Vi grimaced. “Yes, the Moonborn are hiding. But if they hold true to the duty Chang’e assigned them to do – or simply bear a grudge against Yixin thanks to their ancient war – then I can see us running into them very soon.”
Everyone looked at Alan, Tileke, and Amira, the three strongest warriors in Vi’s residence right now. “Hey, I’m always ready for a good brawl and duel,” said Tileke, smirking. “Ya don’t look weak yourself, Amira.”
Amira nodded. “I survived Grand Duke Nykras,” she said quietly. “I’d say I’m decently strong.”
Michael clapped Alan genially on the shoulder. “More training for you, then. You have to be strong. For Anna, and for Elsa.”
Alan nodded, grinning as he slapped a hand on his bicep. “You’re right, Mike. Now that the Countess has laid out everything for us, I need to make sure you guys don’t catch up to me too quickly!”
THE FOUNDATIONS ARE LAID. NOW, THE HUNT BEGINS.