It was midday. Early in the morning, at dawn, a terrifying apparition of a hellish warship had appeared in Arendelle’s fjord. Now it was the queen’s turn to meet this challenge.
Autumn Cloud glided straight for Muspelheim, her masts billowing. Standing with Anna on her flagship’s deck were General Mattias in his green military attire, and Maren, who had reverted to her traditional Northuldra outfit – it would annoy Viola, so that was a bonus. Behind Maren and Mattias were a twenty-strong regiment of Mattias’ elite warriors, Arendellian veterans in light armour with rifles and sabres. Hidden among the soldiers were a small team of demolitionists, who on Mattias’ secret signal would plant explosives on Muspelheim – at such short notice, their bombs probably wouldn’t sink the behemoth, but they might at least cripple her.
Anna could feel the sea spray gently kissing her face as she stared at the looming hull of Viola’s warship. The dark warship began to turn to starboard, exposing its right flank to Autumn Cloud. Concerned murmurs rippled through the Arendellian contingent, and rightly so: Muspelheim’s cannons were larger and almost double the number of Anna’s flagship. But Anna’s bet had been correct. As long as Anna presented herself to Viola, Muspelheim wouldn’t fire, and that meant that they only needed to board the ship, an unthinkable and foolish strategy if Muspelheim was actually going to fire its cannons.
It had been a long time since she tasted the sea-salt air of Arendelle’s fjord.
Wreathed in her dark purple cloak, deep brown tresses blowing in front of her smooth face, Viola Mundilfari stared at Arendelle Castle in the distance. Heeled boot clacking idly, she stood at the bow of her ironclad warship, Muspelheim. It was positively Gothic how this gargantuan vessel had appeared on the horizon, her modern cannons bristling like a porcupine’s spikes from her hull. She’d been built with materials purchased from around the world by Viola’s lawyers in secret, and assembled under the shelter of the forest below Jotunheimen Mountains. It had set sail from a cove close to Viola’s castle, concealed from Arendellian intelligence until the moment Viola chose to commission her.
Her superweapon had moved past the mountains beyond the kingdom, and was anchored within firing distance of the palace and the Plaza.
At least twice the size of Anna’s personal flagship, Autumn Cloud, Muspelheim dwarfed any warship in the Arendellian fleet. The only vestiges of the old world on that ship were her three magnificent masts. Make no mistake: this vessel was a harbinger of a nightmarish modernity. Of destroyed cities and weeping orphans. Of world wars.
It was late morning. The sun was up and bright, though Anna’s mood was down and dark. The queen and Honeymaren were at the table of their private study, the morning light filtering through their windows, when the Snow Queen’s form glided in like some celestial creature. Elsa does this all the time, thought Anna. She was always lost, staring at that gossamer trail of gentle ice, until Elsa snapped her out of her meandering thoughts.
“Thanks for calling this emergency meeting. Thanks for being so brave to talk to Maren and me about what’s been going on with you,” Elsa said to Anna kindly. Despite her exhaustion, Anna beamed.
As Elsa scooted up to Anna, Maren sat across from them, eyes uncertain. Maybe she was wondering if Anna was angry with her for revealing so much in her column. But Anna wanted to tell her that she wasn’t, and indeed felt really guilty for roping her into this fight with the Mundilfaris, whom anyone barely knew, truly knew.
She’d had a really awful dream, and it seemed vivid enough that she thought it was something that was actually happening, or could happen. Anna’s already shared this with you in her column for this paper, but in any case I took her up to my loft quarters and did what I could to comfort her. I was surprised by how shaken she was.
The dream is always the same. I’m in the enchanted forest, running for my life from what I think are the giants of the Earth Spirit. I’m trying to lead them to the dam – but when I get there, I see only a clearing, with Elsa tied to a stake, like some horrific, medieval play or re-enactment. I turn back to look at the giants, only to see a ruddy, repulsive face of my grandfather. Bewildered, I look back where Elsa is, and her pyre is surrounded by hooded, shadowy figures, who use torches to set the wood and her gossamer, shimmering robes alight. I scream and run at the burning pyre, but no matter how my legs sprint, I don’t even get close. In agony Elsa looks at me, her kind eyes full of love, and I turn to shriek at Runeard’s ugly mug. But he’s gone. Only the hooded scumbags remain, who’ve surrounded me and blocked me from Elsa’s view. One of these cultists lifts up his cowl, and I recognise him as one of the scions of the Mundilfari noble family, an ancient Viking clan and, in our day in Arendelle, owner-editors of the Snow Herald.
His face is vague, but his malevolent grin is apparent as I hear the fire whooshing, embers crackling, and Elsa screaming. Hot tears are rolling down my face as I fall on my knees, begging him to spare her. His words are the only thing I remember before my agony ends.
“We’ve been here since the Baltic Crusades, little queen. We drove out the nature spirits and made mountains of their devotees’ carcasses. The appearance of the Fifth Spirit has only strengthened our resolve to protect the Old Ways. Let your Northuldran sister – born a witch – die a witch.”Continue reading “Anna’s Column: My Nightmares Are Getting Worse”→
Her Majesty’s column is the pride of our newspaper. Her articles are published in both the morning and evening editions of The AG.
What a few weeks it has been. I was staring out at the darkening sky from my balcony, my hand absentmindedly scrunching up the scrap of paper that Kai had delivered to me. It was a note from the chief, my editor. She’d seen Jarl Volker, and he had accepted my deal. Tomorrow, the Great Assembly’s ministerial majority, supported by Maren, will kill the anti-Northuldran influence bill. That bill was framed as a national security issue, one about foreign affairs. I had made my position clear in not just parliament, but in conversations with my ministers, my column in chief’s paper, and even public forums down at the Plaza: we were talking about this all wrong. Northuldra wasn’t a foreign realm to begin with.
That’s why I’ve sent a memo to all my officials: union with Northuldra should be framed as “re-integration.” If I can accomplish this during my reign, in my lifetime, I will consider my life’s work done.
I hadn’t been inside Arendelle Chapel since Anna’s coronation, and Elsa’s before that. I made my way to the empty pews, passing under the yawning wooden beams that had seen generations of the royal family crowned all the way back to that mistiest of eras, the Viking Age. My finger lightly trailed along the seats’ frames, my bloodstone signet ring gleaming in the afternoon light.
Sitting by the front pew was a hefty, suited gentleman with a generous red beard. He looked straight ahead, avoiding my gaze.
“Interesting choice of a private rendezvous, Jarl Volker,” I said, sitting down in the row behind him. My voice was a murmur, but I didn’t hide the sneer in it. “You could have just asked me to get the Nokk Club’s doorman to let you in.”