Arendelle and the Qing: Threads of Agnarr and Iduna’s Past

Featured image art by chō/chou (@smolmushroomm)

1838. One year before the deaths of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna

It was the first time the royal couple had ever sailed to the East, to see the ruler that had assisted Arendelle’s rise to first-class prosperity and wealth. Already, the early modern world was becoming more interconnected. The crown prince of the Qing had sensed Arendelle’s special destiny while Elsa was still growing inside the belly of the queen, Iduna. The night Elsa was born, Yixin, who puppeteered the Chinese emperor, declared that Arendelle was to be China’s “Most Favoured Nation.”

With that title came four generous trading privileges that allowed Arendelle’s traders to trade freely with the Great Qing, no questions asked. Arendelle got a better deal than the Dutch, the Portuguese, or the Russians could ever dream of. Elsa and Anna’s early years saw their home’s greatest economic expansion since 1731, the year the Arendellian East India Company first travelled to Canton to buy silk and porcelain.

It had taken Agnarr and Iduna several months of travel aboard their ship, first reaching round the North Sea and past the English Channel, then around Western Europe and along the coast of the great African continent, before swinging back up and weaving through the subtropical archipelagos and making for Canton in Southern China. They finally reached the port, whereupon they disembarked and were received by the hoppo, a stout, well-fed mandarin who prepared them for the trip inland, towards the Forbidden City in Peking.

When they arrived at the emperor’s residence, which was larger than the entire kingdom of Arendelle, they were received by the Celestial Empire’s elite imperial guard: the bannermen, who carried lances with the flag of the imperial dragon, muskets, and longbows and quivers bristling with arrows.

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From Peony Sinclair: Beware the Illusions of Overwhelming Power

To Princess Katina Romanov and Mr. Will Harrison,

I thank you for your valuable time at our meeting in Constantinople the other week. What a beautiful city – I never tire of visiting.

The Ottomans hold the key to the Mediterranean, and nine years ago, Katina’s father had forced the sultan to give Russia joint suzerainty over the Dardanelles. When France backed a pretender caliph against the sultan, my country, Britain, as well as Russia, felt that everyone’s interests were threatened, especially since Katina sees the Black Sea as Russia’s weak underbelly. I’ve put the appropriate pressure on the sultan, Britain, and France to accept that the strait is forbidden to all ships of any nation as long as the Ottomans remain in charge.

Remember: the illusion of government is often enough to maintain world order. Only if even that breaks down are we allowed to a free-for-all. Until Turkey’s monarchy (or any country’s government) collapses internally, the Exalted will support them.

Now, to the matter of Arendelle, which is of great interest to all of us.

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Trade and Finance: Kristoff joins Skau-Krogh as executive director; takes over subsidiary All Arendelle Tea

By Mikael, Business Editor for The Arendelle Guardian

ARENDELLE: The queen’s fiancé and trusted commercial ally, Kristoff, is poised to save rival company Skau-Krogh from looming bankruptcy. In return, Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman (nicknamed the Princely House, a sarcastic reference to his commoner origins and engagement to Anna) will take over All Arendelle Tea, Skau-Krogh’s subsidiary, with Kristoff enjoying a considerable ten per cent stake in his old rival.

The agreement is humiliating but necessary for Skau-Krogh’s tai-pan, Lars Krogh, who had made his firm the willing pawn of the American merchant prince Will Harrison in a corporate war with Bjorgman across multiple industries. From silks and tea to ice and real estate, Skau-Krogh had tried to drive Bjorgman out of business with Harrison’s superior finances. It also obtained a private fleet, courtesy of Harrison, attacking Anna’s allies of Weselton and Chatho. Bjorgman had struggled to keep up with Skau-Krogh, but a twist of fate involving Harrison’s capture of Mari, the princess of Vesterland, and the Duke of Weselton, allowed Harrison to wrench his coveted prize of two lucrative trading privileges in the China trade from our queen. With the Treaty of Weselton granting him these terms, Harrison released Mari and the Duke and ceased to be Skau-Krogh’s backer, leaving Lars deeply in debt with assets he couldn’t pay off, from empty warehouses and docks to uncultivated tea plantations.

Kristoff’s new role as a political influencer on top of his role as top dog of Bjorgman heralds a new plank of Anna’s new strategy, which aims to make Arendelle’s trading houses a key ally in her foreign policy. While detractors in the business paper of the Fjord Times and the Arendellian Commerce Chamber are wary about any return to state-sponsored mercantilism, the shocking ease with which the powerful Harrison manipulated a domestic trade war for his personal gain has united the kingdom’s parliament behind Anna’s new approach.

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The Arendelle Assignment: Elsa and Anna’s Legacy

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“How dare that foreign girl run around the Forbidden City like she owns the place!”

“She shouldn’t even be allowed to look upon the prince regent’s face. Yet she sees him almost every month!”

“Does she have some kind of black spell over him? Do they have bewitching magic in England?”

From the consorts and concubines to the eunuchs and princes, murmurs swirled in the imperial clan about the young Englishwoman with a Chinese name. From a wide-eyed five-year-old to a beautiful young lady, over the years Peony Sinclair had grown into a diplomat equally comfortable in the court of the Qing and among the governments of Europe.

Some of the rumours against Peony were malicious; others were genuinely concerned about her safety. Court politics in China was complex and fatal. There were midnight conspiracies and backstabbing between scholar-officials, eunuchs, the harem, and the military. To courtly rivals, it was bad enough that Peony had her own room in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the quarters of the imperial family. When she was just five, Yixin hired Genoese designers to renovate her small room into a European-style bedchamber to make her feel more at home. For her bedside, he imported an Italian clock that the late Qianlong Emperor loved. This was unprecedented, beyond any court member’s wildest fantasies.

The jealousy aimed at Peony, a no-name, bastard foreigner who wasn’t even of royal blood in her home country, was intense and unreal.

But this place was her home. She knew nowhere else.

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Michael’s Musings: Family

Featured image art by @alhuart

By Trade Minister Michael

As you may have read in recent editions of our fine newspaper, The Arendelle Guardian, Queen Anna recently had to sign the Treaty of Weselton. This document established an uneasy peace between Anna and Will Harrison, a rich member of the First Family of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the cabal of the Exalted. The deal guaranteed the lives of the captive Duke of Weselton and Princess/Ambassador Mari of Vesterland. In return, Anna had to relinquish two of the four special trade conditions from the Most Favored Nation Trade gift given by Prince Regent Yixin to Anna’s and Snow Queen Elsa’s parents, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna, and the Kingdom of Arendelle on Elsa’s birth date.

The cold-blooded hostage-taking by Mr. Harrison (along with the defeat of the Duke and our forces in trying to remove Harrison’s troops from the shores of Weselton) had put their lives in danger. This rocked our beloved Queen (my beloved niece) to her core. Not just the pact from Yixin, but the lives of two people were on the line. Mari was a friend, and despite the bad blood we’ve had with the Duke, his country is part of Anna’s Entente of Smaller Kingdoms, and a life is very precious indeed.

This was the darkest time Anna’s ever experienced since the cave in Northuldra when she feared that her sister Elsa was dead (fortunately, Elsa survived her near-death and is still with us, praise God!). I’d like to share a bit of the conversation that I had with Queen Anna and Snow Queen Elsa (with their permission) about this heartbreaking time.

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Anna’s Column: Realign, Restructure, Recover!

By HM Queen Anna

I want to start this column by thanking my beloved Elsa for her tireless encouragement. She’s supported me in public through her column in this paper, and in private during my most vulnerable and fragile moments. I want to thank my inner court, my government, and all my friends. I want to thank my allies for sticking with my alliance, despite my recent humiliation at Harrison’s hands. I want to thank the Duke and Mari for being so kind to extend their apologies, which I don’t accept, because there’s nothing – zero, nada, zilch – to say sorry for. If you were ever captured again by Harrison, I’d gladly give up the rest of my trade rights with the Celestial Empire to save you.

I want to thank Peony Sinclair for easing the terms of the Treaty of Weselton with Harrison. I know I have a complicated relationship with the Exalted, and I know you were trying to protect me. And most of all, dear citizen, I want to thank you for your faith in me. I promise to do my very best as your most prominent public servant.

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Elsa’s Column: Anna, Follow Your Heart

By Elsa, Queen Emerita of Arendelle

I usually visit Anna every week, often arriving in Arendelle Castle on Friday afternoons, when parliament’s sessions are wrapping up. Anna insists on sleepovers until at least Sunday afternoon, which I’m more than happy to do. So it was a strange feeling when I arrived at the palace today, on the back of my beloved Nokk. It seemed like an eternity since I’d returned, even though it had really only been a fortnight.

I managed to share a heartfelt and loving reunion with Colisa, Chatho’s queen. I’ve treasured her since childhood. If I was Anna’s big sister, then Colisa was like a surrogate elder sister to me, though I was lost to her for a long time during my darker years.

I knew why things felt so strange, though. So much was happening. The Duke of Weselton had stayed with Anna for a while, left to reclaim his territory from Skau-Krogh, but then got himself captured. He and Mari of Vesterland had been held hostage by Harrison, who tied their release to Anna’s relinquishing of our four trade privileges with the Qing emperor. Peony Sinclair’s intervention whittled it down to two, so Harrison didn’t get everything he wanted. But Anna still had to sign the Treaty of Weselton, which is a blow to our kingdom and a heavy blow to Anna personally.

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What You Deserve, Part Two

Read Part One here

Word had spread through the kingdom that Alan, friend and supporter of Queen Anna, Elsa, and Arendelle itself as well as its allies, had challenged Will Harrison, Exalted member, to a fight in the center of Arendelle. This was an unprecedented event, made an even bigger deal by the fact that just earlier that day, Harrison had arrived to sign a treaty with Anna, granting him two of the four trade rights that were gifted to Arendelle after Elsa’s birth, in exchange for Skau-Krogh’s troops to leave Weaselton and the release of the Duke and Mari of Vesterland. On a day where the Queen felt defeated, Alan felt determined.

Before the fight, Alan, along with Elsa, Anna, Queen Colisa of Chatho, Michael, Nahir, Kristoff, Hilde, Mattias, and others, were served the night’s dinner. Even the young Danny was there, seated between Elsa and Anna. Alan had a chat with her about what was going to happen, and all the young girl told him, much like Elsa did, was to be careful.

“Alan, I still can’t believe you’re doing this,” Anna said. “You don’t have to, you know.”

“Yes, the Queen is right,” Colisa added. “Is this truly necessary?”

Alan just smiled. “I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for all of us. I’m doing this for Arendelle. For our allies. Harrison needs to learn that we’re not to be messed with. He may have won the battle, but he ain’t winning the damn war. This isn’t over, you know.”

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What You Deserve, Part One

WARNING: Swearing, strong language

By Sir Alan

This was a day that never should have happened. The humiliation, the defeat, the agony, all of it. From outside the doors, Alan and Michael stood. They watched Harrison walk to the doors and through, Alan shooting an ugly look at Harrison, who didn’t seem to acknowledge it. But Michael did. Once the doors shut, he said, “I saw the look you gave him Alan.”

Alan nodded. “**** him. I hate that son of a bitch and what he did. Anna shouldn’t be giving up any trade rights to his sorry ass. He never deserved them to begin with. What he deserves is a beating.”

Michael nodded, agreeing with his sentiment, his anger. The events of the last several days, last couple weeks at that, were a hard pill to swallow. The Exalted members Katina Romanov, of Russia, and Will Harrison, of the American state known as Virginia, challenged Arendelle. As much larger nations, they looked to impose themselves on the smaller nation. Katina made the first true move, kidnapping Arendelle’s young adopted Princess Danielle, or Danny, as she prefers to be called. If this was meant to be revenge for Elsa’s defeat of Russia in the Baltic, or to be a distraction for what was going to come next, Katina made both happen. Luckily, with the assistance of Countess and Prime Minister Viola, and her general and longtime friend Hilde, among others, Elsa and Anna were able to recover Danny and bring her home. But as they would all come to find out, another, much larger challenge was coming.

Continue reading “What You Deserve, Part One”

BREAKING: Queen Anna surrenders her trading privileges to Mr. Harrison

WARNING: Strong language, profanity

ARENDELLE; BOSTON – In a heavy blow for Queen Anna and her government, Arendelle is poised to sign the Treaty of Weselton, which will cede to Will Harrison of Virginia two of Her Majesty’s four coveted trading freedoms with the Celestial Empire. Our queen will retain the lower taxes for Arendellian banks, and continue to enjoy the privilege of exercising Arendellian law in territory assigned to Arendellians by the Chinese emperor. But the tariff-free imports and expedited customs – critical for volume and speed in importing products – will be transferred to Harrison’s private monopolies.

Reporters say that whether the State of Virginia demands that Mr. Harrison share these privileges with the Virginian government remains an internal American dispute.

Story art by Alanna (@alhuart)

Harrison had instigated a corporate war between two Arendellian companies: Kristoff’s Bjorgman and Lars Krogh’s Skau Krogh. Harrison used Skau-Krogh to plunge Arendelle into economic uncertainty, before moving against Anna’s Entente of Small Kingdoms. While he failed to subdue Chatho, Harrison defeated a combined force of Weselton, Vesterland, and Arendellian forces attempting to liberate Weselton of Skau-Krogh’s occupation. With Princess Mari of Vesterland and the Duke captured, Anna took the dramatic step of opening talks with Mr. Harrison to negotiate their release.

Harrison has arrived in Arendelle to sign the treaty. His private clipper, the Enslaver, is to dock in the harbour – beside Anna’s own flagship, Pride of Elsa.

The concession of two trade privileges rather than four is good news for Arendelle, but remains symbolically crushing for Anna as they represent the terms of the Celestial Empire’s gift to Agnarr and Iduna on the night of Elsa’s birth. This marks the lowest point in Anna’s reign since the early days of her conflict with Countess Vi Mundilfari. As the current prime minister, Lady Mundilfari is absent from Arendelle and unable to assist Anna.

It’s unknown what will happen to Skau-Krogh now that Mr. Harrison seems to have wrenched his desired deal from Queen Anna.

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