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?”
It was a quiet morning at the Grand House that overlooked the hillside of Arendelle. It was an imperious structure, even though it was a significant downsize from Keep Mund in the Jotunheimen Mountains. “Pass the butter, sweetie?” requested Tess Gaunt, sitting at one side of the six-person, mahogany dining table, where Hilde and Vi joined her for breakfast. Vi sat at the head, and she silently passed the silver butter keeper (all the silverware had been transported from Keep Mundilfari to Arendelle) to Tess. The Englishwoman glanced at Hilde, who ate her usual fare – scrambled eggs, a piece of bread, and some fresh fruit – also in silence.
“Are the eggs okay?” asked Tess gingerly. “Do you need some pepper?”
“Hm.” Hilde’s grunt was warm and not curt, but her gold eyes couldn’t mask the fact that she was thinking about something, engrossed in her own thoughts.
The beautiful Countess Vi, no longer regent but now having returned to her usual post of prime minister, stood alongside Commander Hilde on one side of the queen’s hall, at the right hand of the throne. Seated on it was Anna, who surveyed, with modest solemnity as well as a winning smile, the assembled women and men on her left side, who were facing Vi and Hilde: Elsa, Kristoff, Mattias, and Honeymaren.
“I’ve briefed trade minister Michael and Sir Alan about my next move, and now we’re ready,” declared the queen. “In liaison with Peony Sinclair and Queen Colisa of Chatho, the other members of my new Exalted organization, I wish to launch my search for the fragments of the elixir of life.”
The inner court exchanged nervous and terse glances with each other. The air was electric. At last, it had begun, and no less at a make-or-break time of diplomacy with Japan.
Anna was making good on her promise to Lord Yixin for being catapulted to international prominence.
“How does she do it?” This is the unuttered question on the lips of heads of state, diplomats, and journalists across Europe as Arendelle becomes the new place of pilgrimage for great and small powers alike.
Even during Elsa’s reign, no one could have predicted the meteoric rise to global prominence the small Nordic kingdom would enjoy.
While Anna’s predecessor managed significant relationships with mighty realms like the Russian Empire and the Qing Dynasty, it’s Anna who has radically transformed Arendelle’s relationship with almost every great power – and set an example for middle and even smaller states to emulate.
Featured image art “Queen of the realm” by hannah.digiart (@HDigiart)
A special Musing for a special niece and some fatherly thoughts
By Michael, trade minister of Arendelle (@of_michel)
Summer Solstice in Arendelle means that it’s Queen Anna’s Birthday! Unfortunately, this year, Queen Anna, her sister and my niece, Snow Queen Elsa and Kristoff Bjorgman, are away in China on important business, namely to see prince regent Yixin and confirm the Exalted’s new members.
What a year it’s been with Anna as queen. From the lowest low of losing “Most Favoured Nation Status” to that lowdown skunk Will Harrison*, to winning the war with Russia**… and now, a new Exalted with Queen Colisa, Kristoff, and Peony Sinclair.
Not too bad if I say so myself for my royal niece.
It’s also a time that in America, where I used to do business, that they celebrate the fathers of the family. On this day, Elsa and Anna go quietly to the shipwreck site in Northuldra to remember their parents, Queen Iduna and King Agnarr, in private. As they couldn’t do so this year, I went in their place to honour both their parents, as I was a close friend to them before their deaths. Honeymaren, Ryder, Yelena, and the other four nature spirits accompanied me as we laid the flowers and bowed our heads in loving remembrance. There are places in Arendelle that pay tribute Agnarr and Iduna for the public. This one is where the sisters can privately honour their parents.
The walk to the Northuldra encampment was quiet but calm. They were a nomadic people whose knowledge of the forest ran deep in their blood and bones. There wasn’t a single patch of the forest that they didn’t know and love intimately, living in perfect balance and reciprocity with the land. When they arrived at the village, the Northuldra had lit a large fire in the center of an open patch of grass, where tents for individual families had been pitched. As night fell, Anna and Elsa could see for themselves how welcoming and relaxed the Northuldra were, despite having been isolated from the outside world for decades. Song, dance, and warm conversation surrounded the royal sisters, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven. Elsa looked around at all the men and women that had been trapped in the forest for years and could feel the hope they had in her. She promised herself that she would free them from this curse, no matter what.
She began stroking the head of a baby reindeer when the young woman named Honeymaren walked up and sat next to her. They began talking amiably, and there was a notably degree of chemistry between the two young women – one, a questing queen, the other, a hardy tribeswoman.
The Russo-Arendellian War has left a mark on Arendellians from all walks of life. For those in Anna’s inner circle, the impact has been felt especially hard. The burden of the kingdom’s leadership is to shoulder the losses and casualties inflicted by a foreign power. Alan Nadeau III, one of Anna’s most trusted knights and a member of her chivalric order of the Wheat Stalk, has found himself at the heart of Anna’s battles with Russia’s Grand Dukes. As he reflects on his moments of glory as well as shocking defeat, he ponders on how far Arendelle has come, and how much danger lies ahead.
I was back home in Arendelle, following my joining Honeymaren and Amira in battle against Nykras. I’d suffered a couple of minor injuries but nothing severe, although my sword had shattered yet again, dealing a blow to my pride as well. But I had bigger concerns.
I’d gone downstairs to the drawing room see Queen Anna, Michael, and the others. Recently, the love of my life, Queen Emerita and Fifth Spirit Elsa, had headed up to the Dark Sea’s shores to stop the Grand Duke’s advance to Ahtohallan. I’d been worried sick and in an earlier phase of my battle alongside Maren, I remembered seeing that damn lich send three of the other four spirits into what he called a “nether realm.” It was like something out of some fantastic storybook, and it angered me to no end. Why are such beings of power so often horrible, awful individuals? I wanted to give chase, to fight him, but Maren and Amira talked me out of it. Good thing they did. I needed to get back to the homeland and prepare for Sora and Katina’s arrival. Everyone would be needed.
Featured image “Second Death,” by PURY (@puryartist)
Warning: Violent depictions
Above the wet and rough sands of the Northuldra coast, an eerie portal shrieked open. Two black hands with long, misshapen fingers seized the edges of the portal and pulled their owner from the void. Nykras’ wispy long hair trailed behind his mummified face, and his billowing cape followed his armoured form. His armoured boots stepped onto the beach that Elsa’s bare feet once treaded. Those feet had courageously sprinted and swum across the Dark Sea’s treacherous waters toward her destiny.
Across the stormy waves was Ahtohallan. Source of the five spirits’ power.
“Thisss isss my dessstiny too,” whispered Nykras to himself, “to encounter Ahtohallan myssself, and ssseize it for not jussst the eternal sssecurity of the Russian Empire… but for myssself too.”
It was true. To be imbibed with the source of Northuldra’s spirits would elevate the already formidable lich to unimaginably fiendish power. It would guarantee the subjugation of Northuldra and an effortless conquest of Arendelle proper, the seat of power for Elsa’s successor, Anna.
Featured image “Second Death” by PURY (@puryartist)
Warning: Violent depictions
You know who I am.
Grand Duke of Russia. Leader of this expedition into Northuldra. Faithful servant of Katina Romanov.
My name is Nykras.
Tell me, friend of Arendelle. Have you ever been stabbed from all directions by enemy blades, just as you watch your village burn before your your very eyes? To see women and children dragged away, their screams of terror and despair ringing in your ears even as you know you’re losing too much blood and haven’t a hope of catching up with the marauders that have so indiscriminately butchered and humiliated your people?
You haven’t? Then how could you possibly understand me?
How could Arendelle possibly understand the struggles we Grand Dukes went through in the name of defending our Slavic homelands?
Haven’t you heard of the age of the Mongol-Tartar Yoke? We sent terrified hostages and obeisant princes to a Khan we never saw. We paid taxes and tribute to fatten imperial coffers in a faraway land we never visited. When we overthrew the Golden Horde – when I wreaked my revenge by personally leading my undead armies against the last Khan – we resolved to be an even mightier Eurasian power.