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.”
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.
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.
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.
RE: The global situation, as concerns Her Majesty and the Exalted
Selene Severin’s agents have spread across the planet and begun gathering important intelligence about the elixir of life. Soon, Her Majesty may approach you to mobilize the Borealis Corps or the larger army to act on the intelligence that the Ravens provide. Perhaps the Exalted themselves will choose to act and come to our regions of interest. We have begun identifying these regions based on meticulous collating of local information, rumours, legends, and accounts. We have tapped into local networks, government figures friendly or allied to Arendelle, and, where appropriate, reached out with attractive rewards for the more mercenary-minded.
In our first report, we will relay to you what we know about Queen Anna’s targets of South America (Queen Colisa’s jurisdiction), Africa (Honeymaren’s assignment), and Inner Asia (Peony’s specialty).
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.
Featured image art “Moon Deity,” by hanna.digiart (@HDigiart)
“What if you could protect Elsa and Arendelle forever?”
It’s the 19th Century. The war between Arendelle and Russia has ended. Anna’s leadership enters a new era as her kingdom rises to becoming a global power. In this new ongoing arc, The Arendelle Guardian’s story goes cosmic but also introspective, with Anna encountering her own mortality and what eternal life might mean for her as a queen and as Elsa’s sister.