By Michael, trade minister of Arendelle
We had just wrapped up the Summer Session of meetings with the ministers and PM Viola Mundilfari at the Great Assembly, and I was feeling the burn-out! It was time to get a breath of fresh air and finish up what was waiting for us in our offices.
If you’ve read the small, independent paper, The Arendelle Times as well as our beloved Arendelle Guardian, I had some fires to put out and hired staff to delegate a lot of the business of being trade minister. Our Queen Anna has been quite the busy bee, making new friends with many nations and kingdoms as we extend trade relations abroad. The high point was meeting with the trade minister of Russia, Baron Krüdener, who presented me with the stunning image of a wind driven rail car made by Evan Thomas of Baltimore, Maryland from a place I know well, the United States.
Queen Anna talked about when she had visited her big sister, Elsa the Fifth Spirit, in Northuldra. How all the leaves were just so brilliant and lovely in the Enchanted Forest. So the last weekend Elsa was home, she found me not in my study working or just reading or joining in with Anna and Kristoff, visiting with her. I was not even at my favorite place having a good cigar or pipe! I was just on my couch, passed out tired from all the work I had from the session, plus, the logistics and support for an upcoming mission for Anna. I felt like a worn out dish rag after Gerda, Olina and the kitchen folks finished washing dishes after a big state dinner! So, seeing my door open, Elsa looked in and saw her poor, overworked uncle sacked out and seemingly dead tired to the world.
I felt this cool, refreshing breeze with a bit of light snow on my brow as I stirred up slowly. I saw this slender, gentle hand with fingers, gingerly wiggling over me with snow flakes appearing out of the air. It felt really good as I saw Elsa, leaning over me.
“Uncle,” she said in her gentle voice.
“Oh, hey there, Elsa,” I said as I rose up to an inclined position on the couch arm.
“Anna says you’ve working hard lately.”
“Oh my gosh, yes,” I replied. “Meetings, arranging supplies for our exploration for the Elixir: holy cow, I’ve never been so busy! I’ve hired on some great folks to help in handling the additional duties, it seems like there’s never enough time in the day.”
Elsa said, “You know, we’ve appriciated you when you help us with your advice and wisdom when we have problems, especially when you came back and I was learning how to deal with my powers, anxieties and fears. You mind if I returned the favor with you?”
I replied, “Sure, sweetie. I don’t mind. What’s your suggestion?”
Elsa suggested, “Come with me to Northuldra. You should see how the forest is now that Autumn is here. Maren, Ryder, Yelana, Bruni, everyone would love to see you! Stay with us for a week or two!”
“Sure! Why not?” I exclaimed. “Besides, Vi said she was going back to Keep Mundilfari. Maybe our resident vampiress needed a getaway from here. I could see her just now, soaking up in the warm mineral springs under the Keep with a good libation, just chillin’ like a villain!”
We smiled and laughed.
“Sounds wonderful, then. I’ll tell Queen Anna we’re going,” Elsa said.
“Good,” I said. “I’ll pack and meet you at the door to the fjord.”
Elsa then met with Anna to tell her our plans. Unfortunately, Anna couldn’t join us as she was needed at the castle for ongoing royal business with Kristoff and Lady Kam in China. So, I packed up for the trip and met my nieces at the gates. We mounted Nokk to my wagon, Elsa sat with me, she gave Nokk a look, and off to Northuldra we went!
I wish I had Nokk pulling my freight wagon. Talk about making time! Once Elsa said, “Hold on, Uncle!” ZIP! We were off and flying up the fjord!
We made good time with Nokk pulling us a the way to the stone monoliths as we then slowed to enter the forest. We followed the wagon trail that home minister Maren oversaw in making into the Northuldrans’ settlement village. Maren, Elsa and the earth giants really made it nice!
We arrived in the late afternoon as Nokk came to a stop in the middle of the village. The Northuldrans saw us come in and welcomed us as the Northuldrans’ leader, Yelana and Home Minister Maren emerged from Yelana’s tent. Elsa exited the wagon first then embraced Maren in a hug as Yelana said: “Welcome home, Fifth Spirit.”
“Thank you very much,” Elsa said. “I’ve brought a special visitor,” she noted, gesturing to me as I stepped forward and greeted Maren.
“Ah, welcome back to Northuldra, trade minister. What brings you here so unexpectedly?”
“Thank you very much, Yelena.” I answered. “Just call me Mike or Michael. The ‘Trade Minister’ is still in Arendelle!” I said with a smile and a chuckle. “It’s been so hectic lately, Elsa took pity on her poor old Uncle and suggested a trip here to Northuldra in the fall and unwind.”
“The colors are just exceptional this year, trade minister,” said Ryder. The young, strapping gentleman had come up from the reindeer herd he and the others were handling.
“Just Mike there, Ryder ole’ buddy!” I greeted. We shook hands, smiling.
“I trust you’ll be joining us for dinner tonight?” Yelana asked.
“Looking forward to it.” I said.
But then, a red bolt came right at me. It was Bruni!
“NO, DOWN BRUNI, HEEL HEEL!”
THOOMP! BOOM! Down I went! Mugged by a crazy fire salamander! Slurp, slurp, slurp!
“Ha, ha, ha! I’m glad to see you too, you little flaming turkey!” I boomed in laughter. It was so nice to see him again.
“Okay, okay, Bruni,” Elsa said as everyone laughed. Elsa made Bruni’s favorite snow flakes to draw him over to her hand.
“It wouldn’t be a complete vacation up here without getting mugged by Bruni!” I said in amusement!
Dinner was roasted veggies with some fine Northuldran salmon over an open fire, with fresh hot tea following. Fine eatin’. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was bedtime under the stunning Northuldran moon and stars uncovered by clouds.
Next morning came with a good, rich breakfast of fresh fruits, especially berries. Afterwards Elsa, Honeymaren, Ryder and myself, packed up for a picnic and overnight camp out. Bruni even came along with us! When he wasn’t out ahead of us, he mostly was taking in the snowflake treats from Elsa! He’s such a cutie!
Autumn in Northuldra is magical. Having the Fifth Spirit, my Snow Queen niece Elsa as tour guide, made it all the more special.
I was given a unique gift by the settlement elders: an exquisite wooden cane, carved out of Northuldran oak, to assist me in walking with Elsa and Yelena. It was sturdy and beautiful. It came in handy as we walked along the woods and marvelled at the colors that the forest just burst out in.
Elsa and Gale put a little show on of swirling the leaves as they fell from the trees, making a colorful display of wind and foliage, ablaze in reds, yellows, greens and golds before falling to cover the forest floor.
Elsa led our little expedition to a spectacular overlook that showed the entire valley below in a breathtaking scene of color!
We stopped here and enjoyed our picnic lunch with fish, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers for sandwiches, some of the locally made fruit juice and such. “This is just so beautiful and serene,” I said as we sat there, enjoying the day and the gorgeous scenery.
“You’re looking a lot better, Uncle Michael,” Ryder said, and it was true. I was definitely feeling much better.
“I think Elsa got that same smile from you, Mike,” Honeymaren said, sitting next to Elsa.
“It’s not a bright as Elsa’s, believe that,” I said as Elsa shyly grinned!
“I also think that you’re feeling alot better, Uncle. Your cheeks have a healthy flush, and, and there’s a skip in your gait,” Elsa said.
“Just doing as the Snow Doctor said.” I joked.
We packed up and started down the hill and passed by where the Earth Giants were. They recognized Elsa and were very friendly with us. We found the clearing right by where they sleep in the valley’s river, so we made camp for the night.
We sat around the campfire that night, eating a small dinner of leftovers and such I stopped at the candy store for chocolate and marshmallows, then the bakery for a new thing called “graham crackers” before Elsa and I had departed from Arendelle. We made a new treat called “s’mores.” Elsa really had to really watch it with the chocolate! We settled in for some tea. I dug out my pipe for some good aromatic tobacco to relax and enjoy the company by. Maren and Elsa chatted away the evening as Ryder and me listened.
We spent the rest of the evening gazing at the stars on a lovely, clear night. The stars shone so brilliantly. Elsa leaned over to me and asked, “Uncle, do you remember my invitation to come to Ahtohallan? I’d love to take you there and see all of the memories in that river and show you what I saw.”
“I do, and I’m very much looking to go!” I said. “I’m always interested in seeing what you and Anna have going on.”
“Well, maybe the day or so after we can go?” Elsa asked.
“Sounds great! I have my warm clothes with, so, sure!”
Just as we looked up, a beautiful yet angry face was formed by the stars.
“What constellation is that, Elsa?” Ryder asked.
Elsa looked up and was puzzled, then concerned. Honeymaren and myself looked up. I said, “Oh. My. Gosh.” We were all puzzled at what we were seeing.
Next morning brought breakfast and more questions as Gale came in with a message.
Elsa received the message from Gale and thanked her. Elsa opened it. It was from her sister, Queen Anna.
Dear Sis and Uncle,
I hope you guys are having a great tome in Northuldra, hiking and enjoying the fall leaves in The Enchanted Forest. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to come up this weekend to be with all of you.
General Mattias just stated that our advance trekkers near Khara-Khoto in the Gobi Desert have been killed, save one, Babuhai, by a mysterious enemy. Lady Kam is doing all she can while laying low as almost all of her cash was spent to cover all tracks and keep the Qing from executing Babuhai. I’m sending Peony to see what can be done.
“By the Spirits!” exclaimed Honeymaren.
“There’s more.” Elsa said in consternation as she continued.
I have also just learned from Commander Hilde that Viola was not going to Keep Mundilfari in the Jotunheimen Mountains to vacation. Rather, her groundskeepers and stewards who take care of the Keep have been subjected to some very deadly and terrifying attacks by a mysterious force. Just as the Khara-Khoto news came, some of her staff were murdered in ways that are reminiscent of the London murders she investigated. Plus sounds of gutteral howling and laughing in the numerous hallways of the Keep, terrorizing the servants. Vi has gone there to investigate and may have to face this invader of her ancestral home.
We’ve been targeted by the Moonborn and/or supernatural powers intent on targeting us.
I hate to ask you and Uncle to shorten your vacation, please come to Arendelle quickly.
Love, your sis
“We’ve just recovered from Grand Duke Nykras’ assult,” Maren pointed out somberly. “Now this.”
“I know,” I said. “I have a bad feeling, guys, that this may have answered our question about what we saw last night.”
“That with the attacks in the desert and Jotunheimen,” Elsa said. “It may be best to head back to Arendelle Castle quickly to see if Anna needs help. I’m sorry if this ruins our plans.”
“Don’t fret. Matter of fact, you read my mind, Elsa,” I said. “We need to cut this vacation short, the safety of our lands and homes are at risk.”
“I’m sorry to hear this too, Mike,” Ryder said. “Maren and I will come with you.”
“Thanks you two. I think Queen Anna and Prime Minister Viola are going to need all the help they can get.”
Well, it looks like our trip to Ahtohallan has been postponed. We packed my wagon, said our goodbyes to Yelena and the Northuldran folk, and hitched up Nokk for a fast ride back to Arendelle.
I hope my Anna didn’t eind up going over her head and pay grade with this…
Trade Minister Michael