Interlude: The Queen and Her Plan

Anna wanted some time alone. When Elsa wasn’t around, she would go to a place that represented not only Arendelle’s rise to world prominence and prestige, but also served as a symbol of her political savvy and ability to build bridges. This was Arendelle Hall, which had been built with Viola Mundilfari’s sponsorship and where the Arendelle Philharmonic performed regularly. Arendelle Hall represented, to Anna, everything that she was focused on protecting: a community center around which the whole kingdom could gather and everyone could bask in the national culture, identity, and aesthetic taste they had built together as a kingdom, united by the Diarchy and taken forward by Anna.

It was why she felt at home here when she needed some time out of her throne room. To think. To brood. Even a queen needed privacy, away from her ministers and jarls, all of whom were clamoring for explanations about the sudden disappearance of the prime minister, Vi herself. Legislation stuck. Laws, bills, and proposals languishing amidst political chaos and factional infighting. And there she was, every single day in the parliament of the Great Assembly, looking and feeling like a fool as she tried to hold her government together without Vi’s stern yet charismatic hand… the darkness to Anna’s light. Her shadow. Her companion.

“I’d forgotten how much help you’ve been to me over the past few years, vampire,” whispered Anna to herself, surprised how choked up she sounded. “I never thought that when we first confronted each other, I’d miss you so much. I need you, Vi.”

She sat in the comfortable royal box, the box with the best view of the stage, in an otherwise empty hall. There was no public perfomance today, and she was the solo audience (she allowed herself this queenly privilege from time to time). The Philharmonic’s musicians were playing, violins strumming and flutes and clarinets blowing, supporting the young woman standing at the head of the stage. Anna’s eyes were drawn to her dramatic gesticulations as the soprano’s voice rose, and rose, and rose – Luna Bourbon, thought Anna to herself, watching the brunette’s sparkling, figure-hugging dress and mesmeric brown eyes. Ostensibly my private singer, but her surname betrays her noble origins as a member of that great European aristocatic house… far more prestigious than anything from Arendelle’s royal clan. Perhaps even greater than the name of the Mundilfaris.

Even though she’s a Bourbon, it’s not like she’s hiding it despite her status as a refugee, Anna mused. She had personally signed the immigration papers that granted Luna asylum in Arendelle, risking the wrath of the Spanish government, which was at the time hunting down the fallen Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty. The queen of Arendelle continued to listen to Luna’s recitation of a scene from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: Voi che sapete.

Tell me what love is, what can it be
What is this yearning burning me?
Can I survive it, will I endure?

Their eyes met momentarily when Luna looked up at Anna, catching her staring at her. She put a bit of flair in her performance, keeping her dewy yet sharp and feline eyes on the queen. She continued to sing in perfect Italian:

Starting in passion, ending in pain
I start to shiver, then I’m on fire
Then I’m a quiver with seething desire
Who knows the secret, who holds the key?

Anna’s cerulean eyes glimmered as she noticed. But then she rubbed the ridge of her nose tiredly. As if the unification of Arendelle and Northuldra – the original goal she’d set out on upon her coronation – weren’t a headache enough. For Elsa, for the sake of never losing her again, she’d set out on a legacy-defining odyssey on behalf of a foreign puppeteer. Yes, she was constantly on the lookout to see how she would define her goals against Yixin’s. But for now, she needed him, if only because the Moonborn were turning out to be extremely powerful and dangerous, able to answer Arendelle’s finest with no trouble at all.

She was worried about what they could do when angered. What could happen to Sir Alan, her top man to protect Elsa? To sweet little ice princess Danny, the Spirit of Time who was still too young and fragile to embrace her mighty powers? To Uncle Mike, who’d been her guide for so long?

First, Vi was captured in her own Keep. And in the Gobi Desert, another Moonborn almost exposed Lady Kam’s expedition, implicating Kristoff’s company and my own government, Anna continued thinking, her brooding growing darker. These guys might be responding to my actions, but they’re already ahead of me. This is nothing like Vi, Amira, or Selene when we were enemies, or even Russia. They’re

She shuddered to herself. Either I get my elixir, or I’m destroyed. Perhaps I’m risking all of Arendelle too. And even then, will Yixin turn on me? Will he demand servitude from me forever? Do I have the guts to even take him on one day?

Luna’s melodious, magical voice was exquisite. It gladdened Anna’s ears.

I long for something – what can it be?
My brain is reeling, I wonder why
And then the feeling I’m going to die
By day it haunts me, haunts me by night
This tender torment, tinged with delight!

Anna rested her elbow on her armrest and crossed her leg, gazing down at Luna and the Philharmonic’s performers from her box. She sighed, suddenly feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. The burden of a monarch.

She closed her eyes, savoring Luna’s voice.

“I’ll do anything for you, Elsa,” she muttered to herself. “Perhaps that’s my cardinal offense… that I do my best to be queen for everyone, but if I feel forced to choose… I would choose my own queen any day. My sister.”

Perhaps one day, that would be her undoing. Who knew?

Luna was about to finish. She stretched out her hand, catching Anna’s gaze one final time, her fingers reaching up for the queen. She was singing the final parts of Mozart’s masterpiece.

Tell me what love is, what can it be?
What is this yearning, burning in me?
What is this yearning, burning in me?
What is this yearning, burning in me?

As her voice died down and the musicians slowly lowered their instruments, Anna rose to her feet and clapped as hard as she could, hurrying down from her box and approaching the soprano, who had noticed that Anna was coming straight for her. She politely waited as the rest of the Philharmonic, who were hand-picked by Vi and were used to the queen’s company, packed up their things. Anna hurried past the rows of seats and velvet drapes, before skipping up the short flight of stairs to the stage. Luna was no taller than her, and their eyes met once again.

“Thank you so much for the private performance,” said Anna, putting her hands together sweetly. “Your singing is incredible. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

Luna curtseyed graciously. “Your Majesty. Answering your summons for a one-to-one is the least I could do after you gave me asylum and employment,” she said, her normal voice as pleasant to listen to as her singing voice. “Most importantly of all, you offered me dignity. That is something that cannot be paid for.” She shook her head, Anna noticing loose strands from her brown ponytail. “There’s no shame in being a refugee, in being someone with no home. But when you’re of that status, society tends to treat you differently. Especially when your origins are no guarantee of your wealth.”

Anna nodded, taking the hint. There was some kind of power struggle in the Bourbon dynasty, and Luna evidently hadn’t fared well. “There are many questions about your homeland that I’d like to ask, but for now, I just hope you’re feeling comfortable in Arendelle. You can tell me whatever you feel comfortable with, in time.”

“You’ve really watched out for my welfare, so I also won’t ask you what brought about this sudden request,” replied Luna. “I’ve performed across Spain and the Mediterranean, and powerful men and monarchs have always had their reasons, both mundane and peculiar, for wanting to listen to me. Yet it’s here in Arendelle that I’ve felt most comfortable in, even though the Continental cultural scene is relatively new by your own admission.”

Anna thought about all she’d been mulling over… her new Exalted. Vi. The Moonborn. She sighed. “You’ve seen right through me, Luna. I’ll spare you all the details of my messy government, and the fact that I’m desperately missing a critical ally. The truth is, your voice is… reinvigorating. Encouraging. I like coming back to you when Arendelle Hall is open.”

The other woman’s eyes reflected total understanding as well as the wish to understand more. “This place is yours. I can come back to sing for you anytime you wish, Your Majesty,” said Luna, bowing her head, “and in fact, I’m at your disposal for anything you need. I’m here for you. Should you wish it,” she added, as if worried Anna might say no.

Anna’s heart twisted slightly at the Spanish woman’s beauty. “I wish it – if you’d be willing to grant me this.”

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