In the scorching region of Khara-Khoto, amidst a town of eerie structures that had been abandoned centuries ago, several shrouded figures were huddled around a campsite, their visors screening their eyes from the inhospitable howling of tempestuous wind.
“Is this the place, Yelu?” shouted one of the trekkers. “We’ve been trying to get here for weeks.”
“Yes. The City of Black Water, called Etzina in the writings of Marco Polo, that Venetian explorer. There are whispers,” cried the other called Yelu, over the screaming wind and holding up his scarf to stop too much sand from flying into his mouth. He paused, mindful not to gasp or panic, or else his mouth would be filled with even more grit. “That this could be the place. The place where a fragment of the elixir of life is located.”
ARENDELLE – It’s that time of the year again, and the summer solstice is bringing happiness and joy to all. The kingdom held a warm and intimate gathering at Arendelle Castle’s dining room for the citizenry, with tables, chairs and food prepared for guests to come in and out throughout the day. True to tradition, the gates were flung open for a small fete in the courtyard of the palace, with children’s stalls, balloons, and a massive birthday cake made with ice cream and touched by Elsa’s own hands.
In contrast to grander receptions held for dignitaries and politicians (which Arendelle Castle is more than capable of hosting), Anna’s birthdays tend to be family-oriented, community activities that are open to everyone, at any time. “That is why Her Majesty wanted to keep the palace open all day today, well past dinner, so that people can come and go as they please. We’re here to welcome them,” said Getrude, one of the party planners for this year’s Queen’s Birthday, told The Arendelle Guardian’s gossip columnist. “The last year or so has seen so much change come to Arendelle. While much of the change might be a point of pride for the kingdom’s powerbrokers and leaders, Anna wants her birthday to represent something homely and constant, a point of happiness and contentment that her friends, family, and fellow Arendellians can always rely on.”
BREAKING: ANNA PRESSES POLITICAL ADVANTAGE BY SIGNING THREE TREATIES
In yet another signal to the world’s major powers of her growing clout, Queen Anna of Arendelle has announced that she will sign a flurry of trade treaties and alliances with Great Britain, the new country of Peru, and, surprisingly, with the Russian Empire.
In a press release jointly published by the Office of the Prime Minister, Countess Vi, and the palace, which is still headed by Anna, the government was at pains to stress that the process was still ongoing, and there were conflicting perspectives and interests to be hammered out in negotiations by Arendellian diplomats and their foreign counterparts. Nevertheless, the fact that Anna has gotten the ears of the world’s largest naval power, a newly independent state in the heart of the New World, and a former adversary (whose leader was at Arendelle’s throat just less than two years ago), attests to Anna’s growing ability to lead not just from the front, but behind the scenes with competent and loyal deputies, pulling strings and asserting a presence that gets things done for her kingdom.
The result is a network of friendships, some mature, others budding, that bode well for the future of Arendellian influence throughout the world.
Life here in Arendelle is never perfect. However, it’s been great with the reigns of both queens Elsa and Anna. It goes without saying about how far we’ve come in this saga. The love we have for each other, the support of the folk in both lands of Arendelle and Northuldra, especially for the struggles the two young women have gone through since the hard, lonely years of their childhood.
They’ve made a ton of progress and encountered many milestones as life goes on. Yet the love they have for each other, plus for those who have come along the way – like Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, Sir Alan, a certain Uncle, and more.
Unfortunately, life has those who will never be happy and will always complain and want to sabotage another’s happiness. Gossip and rumors do exactly that.
So it was no surprise, but indeed aggravating, to hear some malcontents in the kingdom saying untruths about my nieces and Kristoff. Too much of this will give places like Our Fair Kingdom a quarantining case of “rumoritis!”
So: let’s clear the air and let some truth shine in, shall we?
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?”
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 “The inner court” by PURY (@puryartist)
Hi, everyone! Since returning to Arendelle, I’ve had more time to continue my personal column in this newspaper: it’s one of my favourite ways to reach as many people as possible, and I like to think my column will be a fair but heartfelt bellwether for my hopes, difficulties, and worries.
When I became queen, I told the kingdom right after my coronation that I wanted to be a different kind of leader, someone that could offer something different to past monarchs. I think my policies and vision for Arendelle will speak for themselves, long after I’m gone. Even if historians consider my reign to be a mediocre or even a failed one, they won’t be able to say that I didn’t aim high. I’m reaching for the stars, quite literally. Let me explain why.
The Exalted, which I now lead, is an ancient society of world leaders that was formed to find the fragments of a long-lost elixir: whether you call it the Holy Grail, the Philosopher’s Stone, or ambrosia, this is the fabled potion of immortality that humanity once possessed – until a war beyond the heavens, among the celestial bodies far above us, deprived us of that elixir.
That elixir wasn’t for everyone, to tell you the truth: its creator, a goddess who knows the spirits of Northuldra, had intended a select group of leaders, who’d have proven their wisdom and goodness, to lead humanity forever.
This saying was so true when our travellers came back from Arendelle.
Queen Anna, Snow Queen Elsa, Kristoff, Sir Alan, Queen Colisa of Chatho, and Peony Sinclair returned safe and sound from the Celestial Empire of China, where they met with not only the mysterious Lord Aisin Gioro Yixin, but also with Lady Kam Chik-leoi, the very beautiful and intelligent comprador of the Princely House, Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman.
She’s also the head of the Crocus and Lotus, the Arendelle-allied but illegal triad society (according to the British overlords in Hong Kong) that’s locked in ongoing turf warfare with Harrison’s criminal allies, the Floodgate gang.
When the Floodgate thugs attacked our party, Kam’s triad fighters were Johnny-on-the-spot to defend our friends from Wily Will Harrison’s hit squad.
But I digress. It’s time to greet our weary travelers!
Thursday morning came early as the call from the fjord guard posts reported Anna’s ship, Pride Of Elsa, approaching the harbor docks. I had gotten up and dressed to meet our returning royals. Our First Vampire and regent Vi, who’d been injured in the fight with Selene Severin, was doing better, but still needed more rest from her wounds. Princess Danny did a fine job of using her ice powers to help close up Vi’s wounds. She needed blood, so Tess Gaunt and myself donated some. Hilde and Tess stayed with Vi until she got more of her strength back.
The queen of Arendelle was in the book-lined study of Harrison, a private and literally cigar smoke filled backroom on the second level of the Qilin Cabaret. Outside in the lounge, singing, cheering, and clapping could be heard along with the clinking of wine and whisky glasses. Elsa and the others were waiting for Colisa and Anna, who were still in negotiations with the tai-pan.
“You’re offering access for me to the government of your Union across the Atlantic Ocean in return for the chance to participate in my search for the elixir of life? To partake in the elixir itself, if I find it?” confirmed Anna, crossing her arms as she sat before Harrison’s desk. “How is that different from being a member of the Exalted – which, as long as I’m leader, you’ll never be?”
Harrison grunted. “The difference is yours to decide, queen. I don’t need necessarily to be in an executive position. What I can provide is ships, resources, finances… all that stuff you’ll inevitably find yourself hankering for as your operations go global. I’m offering you my… conditional allegiance. And a… negotiated duopoly over various industries in the China trade. Between my own company and that of your beloved Kristoff’s Bjorgman. Together, we’ll hoard all profits to ourselves and watch our rivals sink into the depths of the China sea.”