It was a day the soldiers and servants of the Imperial Household would never forget.
The carriage was run-down, rickety, and looked like it was almost falling apart as it came to a stop before the massive gate of the Alexander Palace, the Romanov family’s favorite retreat.
One sharp-eyed guard remembered who had set off inside this humble vehicle, and panicked. “Oh, God. It’s Her Highness. It’s Her Highness! She’s back! Summon the Imperial Guard, right now!”
He hastily opened the gate so that the carriage could labor its way toward the steps of the palace. The Imperial Guard were quickly called to the steps below the great pillars lining the entrance of the palace, and from the carriage stepped out Katina Romanov, her attire nearly unrecognizable – she wore a tattered, mouldy cloak with a hood over a simple top and leggings, typical of peasants from the wastelands far away from Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Her hair, once in an elegant ponytail, draped down her shoulders and back, unkempt and smeared with grime and dirt. Her own face was weathered and slightly hardened, and her hands had visible calluses on them, perhaps from riding horses or working on the farm. “Your Imperial Highness!” cried the members of the Imperial Guard, who looked visibly horrified as they streamed out of the palace.
Featured image art “Family man” by Arute (@ast05water)
By Michael, trade minister of Arendelle
Since the meeting with Countess Viola in the Grand House of the Family Mundilfari, we’ve been very busy with preparations for our friends. Several are to embark on the search that Yixin has set for our Queen Anna, the Emerald Dragon of the New Exalted. Strategies, logistics, plus the normal day-to-day: it gets hectic.
I have added some folks to my own staff to make sure this goes off as smoothly as possible.
Not only have I enlisted Selene Severin’s keen assistance in research and her flock of “ravens,” but I also have brought on board a young man named Gunnar Weighorst has come from Sweden to Arendelle with know-how in trade and business. He’s become very valuable in my Ministry staff, especially with the new trade pacts that Queen Anna has been wanting to establish with Great Britain, Peru, and Russia.
Gunnar and Selene have figured the ins and outs with Peru and Britain. Queen Anna and Queen Victoria have been friends for a while now, so that agreement may be easy. Peru is a bit harder, since they have their own economic troubles since the end of their war for independence from Spain. I have some hope for this to go through as we received some Peruvian Arabica coffee beans as gifts from Presidente Ramón Castilla yMarquesado’s trade cabinet. I must say, these beans make some of the best coffee I have ever had.
The princess of Russia, Katina Romanov, was decked in her black military uniform, her favourite, as she sat down at her long breakfast table in her favourite dining room, one of many, in the Alexander Palace. Before her were several slices of toast, and a stainless silver cup of caviar. Though she had been defeated by Arendelle, she still held absolute power in Russia, and even if she no longer cared about the performative pomp of being the empire’s de facto ruler, it did feel nice to have some luxury grub once more.
It had been a grueling year in the Russian countryside and wilderness, eking out an existence in the midst of rebuilding her shattered heart and pride. In self-imposed penance, she found the strength to let go of her anger and self-hate, and even came to terms with her respect for Anna, the only sovereign to have ever bested her. And now, she had the chance to build bridges she once thought burned by her callousness.
It was a beautiful morning. The Russian Empire’s leader was back.
The servants were fussing about today in Alexander Palace, the main residence of Russia’s most powerful woman. Olga and Alina, two of Katina Romanov’s maids, were in the immense bedchamber of the Russian princess, hastily folding Katina’s freshly-pressed military uniform, coat, and trousers. The wardrobes, bed, and vanity table were all dusty; the room hadn’t seen its master for many months. And now, she was back, and taking a nice long soak in the lavish tub inside her en suite bathroom.
“How could Her Highness have spent so long in the wilderness? I’m surprised her countenance hasn’t changed into a deathly pall. That’s what Siberia would do to her lovely skin,” muttered Alina, drawing back the high curtains of the window by Katina’s bedside.
“It’s not just Siberia… I hear Her Highness has gone everywhere. Villages, hamlets, rural settlements all east of Moscow, and south of Saint Petersburg… she’s even visited the auls, fortified towns of the Caucasus peoples we watch over, the kishlaks of the Turks, and the Cossack stanitsas,” said Olga. “It’s like her priorities completely changed upon returning to Arendelle.”
Featured image art “Moon Goddess” by hannah.digiart (@HDigiart)
The Forbidden City. Qing China
“Everything is going to plan, master.” Peony stood at attention in the darkness of the imperial hall, the throne before her swathed in incense-choked darkness. “Anna’s strength grows by the month, and Arendelle, step by step, is taking its place among the family of great powers.”
Peony pursed her lips. “Arendelle is a unique country among countries, headed by the Diarchy: the only leaders who are capable of taking on the very Moonborn themselves.”
She took a deep breath. “And, with help from her new Exalted, they’ll take what Chang’e, your mother, denied you. What she denied humanity: a fair shot at immortality.”
There was silence from the seated form a few feet in front of her.
Peony paused. “Master?” she asked, looking up as she heard Yixin shift. His robed body moved slightly, and two smoldering orbs of light that were his eyes gazed balefully down at his adoptive daughter.
Featured image art “Redemptive chat” by Arute (@ast05water)
By Michael, Trade Minister of Arendelle
After seeing how Hilde and Selene were doing during our dinner for Queen Anna and our returning travelers, I got to thinking about what our little castle has become to some very special folks.
I said to my niece, the Queen; “You know, Anna, this castle is not just our home, it feels like a safe haven for some once-hurting souls like Vi, Hilde, Tess, Danny, and now Selene. Just add some love and make them feel like family. Like they belong here as one of us.”
“I feel like our whole kingdom is like a found family, and I love it,” Anna replied.
“Oh yes! It shows when you’re amogst the people of Arendelle. The best little kingdom in the world!” I answered.
Anna then said: “I like to think that everyone would like to have us as their family! Teehee.”
“We’d fill up those little houses pretty fast with our crew!” I agreed, laughing generously.
Featured image art “Supreme commander” by PURY (“puryartist)
FROM: HH Katina Romanov, princess of Russia
TO: HE Michael, trade minister of Arendelle, and HM Queen Anna
Dear Michael and family,
Thank you for your letter. I read it over several times, and it still lies open on my desk. It was very kind of you to think of me even after the conflict between our countries concluded. In truth, I often think of you and your queen, and the kindness you all showed me even after my disgrace. I’ve come to accept my role in that whole fiasco, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I must live with my mortal error of banishing Sora, my companion and protector. The one who never gave up on me.
I’m not used to writing letters that discuss intimate matters. I envy you, Anna, and the rest of your beautiful circle. It must be so nice to never have to have one’s guard up among those you love. I had that with Sora, although it was always me that pushed her away. And then I betrayed her.
My defeat at Anna and Elsa’s hands was well-deserved. Just as I know that Anna has tried to swallow her lingering anger against me for my mass invasion of her home, I’ve tried to accept my defeat with a humbled heart.
By Michael, Trade Minister of Arendelle (@of_michel)
There’s been a lot happening with Queen Anna, who is currently in China with Snow Queen Elsa, Kristoff, and Queen Colisa of Chatho. They comprise the Exalted now, and they’re with one of the original members of this group, Peony Sinclair, to visit her commander, the Qing prince regent Yixin. Meanwhile, in Arendelle we have a stalker plaguing prime minister and First Vampire Viola Mundilfari, a case which myself and now Commander Hilde Von Altheim are working on together. Then, of course, there’s always the normal business of running Arendelle’s government.
As my friend Vi went to the drawing room, I went back to my study and office to review what myself and Vi had brainstormed on. As I reclined back on my desk chair, my eye caught sight of an object on my desk that made me stop and reflect a bit. It was a feather and not just any feather. It was one that belonged to Grand Duke Sora, the guardian angel of the royal family of Russia, the Romanovs. She was quite literally an angel, and this feather came from her wing.
She was such a gentle, loving soul, yet she could fire up like the sun and fight like all hellfire. I miss her a lot. I also miss Princess Katina Romanov. You say to me, “But how could you miss that angry warmonger?”
Featured image art “Supreme commander,” by PURY (@puryartist)
Thank you for taking care of me for all these weeks. By the time you receive this, I’ll be halfway back to Saint Petersburg. My flagship will be in the North Sea, perhaps a short distance from where my Baltic Fleet and your naval coalition first exchanged fire. I burn with shame for having directed the late Yaraslaf against your allies and inflicting so much violence on Queen Colisa, the Duke of Weselton, and even Hans, all of whom you’ve told me plenty about during my time in Arendelle.
The fact that you’ve treated me, your invader, so kindly and compassionately after my own catastrophic mistake, should be a source of eternal shame for me. That’s the one point that you and I will always differ on: that you, in your eternal optimism and kindness, feel that you can forgive me once I’ve made amends for my cruelty. You’re wrong. My debt to you for giving me another chance to lead Russia, the way Sora would have wanted me to, will last long after my death.
During the Russo-Arendellian war, my column went on a short hiatus. I was helping Queen Anna oversee the affairs of the Royal Household while the conflict raged on. We lost some good friends such as Sergeant Severin, while those like Commander Hilde Von Altheim took a massive hit while fighting Grand Duke Yaraslaf the werebear. Yaraslaf and Nykras have been defeated and the Russian forces defeated. The war is won. However, it is tempered in deep sorrow.
I was hoping to restart my column with a happier story. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
We lost a very dear, loving, and tenderhearted ally in Sora, who was a fallen angel and the guardian of Katina Romanov. Katina is the princess of Russia and the sovereign leader that launched this whole invasion. My own heart is still aching over the loss of this fiery and valiant, yet gentle and loving soul. She departed this world tragically. She was working to try and make Princess Katina see the error of her ways and forget this useless war. It was a plan that Sora and Elsa had planned early on. Instead of spearheading an all-out assault on the kingdom, Sora faked the fight we witnessed, and Elsa threw it to make it look like Sora won. Katina’s rage was so much at a fever pitch with Sora, she proclaimed:
“I release you from the service of the Romanov family!”