Today, I visited Kingdom Hall to listen to a performance of Francesco Durante’s Danza, Danza, Fanciulla Gentile. The last few weeks have been a relatively quiet time for the Arendelle Philharmonic (they’re preparing a new concert – I’m keeping my lips sealed about what they’re playing!), and we’re still in the middle of arranging for the composer Clara Schumann to visit our kingdom. I thought it was a good time to mention my new opera singer. The papers have been circulating her name, so maybe you’ve heard about her already.
Luna de Bourbon.
It was Kai that had been advising me on how to take Vi’s great cultural project forward. She’d provided a very solid foundation, what with a lasting grant that would pay the Philharmonic members’ salaries for five years and the running costs of maintaining Kingdom Hall’s considerable upkeep (Arendelle has never had a cultural center before). Although I don’t accept Vi’s old ideas of imperial rule, her hardheaded ideas of hard and soft power have their merits. Ever since we built Kingdom Hall, our position as a cultural influencer throughout Europe has grown in correspondence to our military and diplomatic victories – not just over Russia but in keeping fiefs like those of Will Harrison under control, and even against the British East India Company way back in the early days of my tenure.
But we’re a relatively new presence on the world stage when it comes to music, drama, and the arts in general. An offhand comment from Kai made me think: “Anna, you should be more personally involved with Kingdom Hall. Many of the Arendelle Philharmonic’s musicians were once employed by the Countess as her private orchestra. You should take a leaf out of her book, Your Majesty. Live a little. Exercise your queenly office and become a patron of the arts.”
I’m not so bold (or wealthy) as Vi to hire a whole orchestra, but as serendipity would have it, I was reviewing documents a few weeks ago when I saw a very special name being processed: that of Spain’s ruling house, which had been restored after a brief interregnum of displacement and humiliation in the Napoleonic Wars. These guys were the Bourbons, an ancient European house that had ruled Luxembourg, Naples, Sicily, and other regions throughout the Continent. Theirs was a dynastic clan far older than our own, rivalled perhaps only by the Habsburgs.
I was inspecting a list of refugees filtering into the kingdom when I came across Luna’s name. I pointed out her surname to Mattias, who confirmed that she was very likely from the Bourbons of Spain. Now, we believe in treating asylum seekers with kindness and empathy, since we want stability and safety for our citizens as well. We process refugees at a shelter near the docks, which was renovated from a mess hall used by navy officers and converted to a hostel kind of place. I went there some time ago just by myself, and greeted the dozen or so refugees that were seeking to stay in Arendelle or move further inland to other countries. My heart went out to each and every one of them – I remember an Albanian family of three and a couple that had sailed all the way from Peru.
The Peruvian gentleman and his wife were actually royalists that supported Spain, but had now lost everything after the war for the country’s independence was won. I found it darkly ironic that my government now were reaching out to the new Peruvian government to get support for an expedition to Machu Picchu, to search for a fragment of the elixir of life. The Albanian family’s situation was even more awkward: they’d revolted against the reforms implemented by the Ottoman sultan: reforms that modernized the Ottoman army, strengthened their hold over Central Europe, and placed serakser Tileke in her exalted position as Ottoman general in the first place. My friend and ally.
I keep a calm face in meetings like this, but my heart has felt burdened with these tensions and contradictions for a long time since I became queen. You know, dear citizen – I’m not a symbolic figure. The Arendellian crown is also the executive, although I’ve delegated some of that power to Vi, my prime minister. So I’ve had to learn on the job, and one of the earliest lessons I learned was that it’s a small world with lots of uncomfortable questions.
Sometimes it’s easier to face down someone who’s undoubtedly a scumbag: Harrison and his opium, or a foe that’s implacably trying to destroy you, like Katina when she commanded Russia’s might against us. But what about these messy situations?
Anyway, I asked around for a certain Luna de Bourbon, and sitting at the edge of one of the canteen’s tables was a young woman who seemed to know that I was making for her. I greeted her, asking her if she intended to stay in Arendelle a while. I didn’t mention everything Mattias and my agents had told me: that apparently, she’d been on the run, and that the formidable task force of the Civil Guard, a branch of Spain’s foreign service, were after her.
Luna seemed like a direct and forthright person. “I need a job,” she blurted out, as soon as she had a chance. The sooner an asylum seeker can enter employment, the more easily she can get the papers that register her as a temporary resident of Arendelle. To my delight, when I asked her what she used to do in Spain, she told me that she was… you guessed it. A soprano, moving within Spain’s highest cultural circles.
I didn’t think twice, and I offered her to, quite literally, sing for me. To be part of Kingdom Hall.
I’m pleased to say that in a few nights, I’ll be attending her first performance. Consider it her first job here. And you’re invited to join me. I’m confident you’ll be meeting her soon, and I’m very much looking forward to getting to know her better with you.