Something multi-chapter, I hope, with a bit of character study, conflict, and magic to spice things up. Open to suggestions, but it probed its way out of my brain and here we are.
Frozen and its characters belong to Disney, which I am far too old to be writing fan fiction for.
Shortly before dawn, Anna woke from a dream of snow and ice and shattering steel to find that her cabin's fire had gone out.
She lay still for a moment, eyes open, listening to the ship creak around her as waves thumped against the hull. The salty air made her skin feel damp, so she reached up a hand to wipe her face. It took another few moments for her pulse to slow down. She pressed the other hand over her heart.
But she'd woken up in a bed, instead of at the bottom of the sea, so that made it a decent morning so far.
"Right," she said. "Good perspective."
Then Anna drew the quilt around her like a cloak, pulled on her boots, and fumbled through the blue-black darkness to dress herself. A few embers glowed in the wood stove, and maybe she could've stirred them up to a blaze again, but down here the ceiling was too low and the windows were too small and the water was too close.
She missed a hook in her corset, two buttons on her bodice. By the time it came to fixing her hair, however, Anna's hands were reasonably steady: then she regarded her reflection in the washbasin, frowned, and knotted both braids together before pinning them up at the base of her neck.
("I should be coming with you," Elsa had said, three days earlier. "I'm the queen. I should be delivering the testimony."
"No, it's alright. Don't worry about me. At least their courts let women bring the charges themselves, right? We should make that a law here too. You should make that a law." She'd reached out and taken her sister's hands. "And getting the princess of Arendelle instead of the queen as a guest isn't such a bad trade-off, is it?")
"Right," she repeated.
A cover of fog had crept in overnight, but was starting to lift when she poked her head above deck fifteen minutes later. Anders, the chief mate, approached her with a lantern in one hand and a bowl of barley porridge in the other.
"Good morning, Princess." He nodded his head. "I didn't expect you to be awake this early. Have you come to take the second navigation watch for me?"
"Good morning! And, well, I'll try if you really want me to. You could probably use the sleep." Anna wrung her hands, accepting the porridge as he offered it to her. "Elsa and I used to race model ships across the garden pond when we were kids, where we'd stand on the shore and pull them across with some string. I got pretty good at it after a while, except for one time when I crashed mine into a duck. But I don't think there are many giant ducks to run into out here, right?"
Anders stared at her. "I should say not, milady."
She took a large spoonful of the porridge. "Ah we cloff yeh?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Sorry." She swallowed. "Whew, that's hot. I said, are we close yet?"
He pulled a pocket watch from his coat – Anna had spent the previous day winding its key and springing the latch before declaring it a work of either mechanical genius or magic – to check the hour. "We should put into port just after sunrise, milady. Hopefully we can keep this west wind behind us."
"You think we will?"
"Doesn't matter much what I think, milady. You won't need to be concerned either way." He glanced up into the rigging. "No use worrying over bad winds if you can adjust your sails to meet them."
"I haven't heard that saying before. Is that even a saying? I feel like it should be a saying."
"Maybe it should. A naval officer told me that last time I was in the Southern Isles."
"Ah-ha. That's appropriate." She ate another mouthful of porridge. It burned her tongue, but she swallowed it against the hard knot in her throat. "When was that?"
Anders polished the face of his watch with an oil cloth. "When was what?"
"The last time you were in the Southern Isles. When was that?"
A crease formed between his gray brows. "Early this past spring, milady. For King Magnus's wedding. Your sister sent a pot of flowers I was asked to deliver along with a freight of timber. Do you remember?"
The flowers had been freshly grown lady-of-the-snow violets. The gift itself had been Elsa's idea, because she'd needed to hurry them along through a stiff March frost, but Anna had been the one to suggest presenting them in a little box made of ice.
"Right, sure. I remember that. Was everyone, uh, amiable toward you?"
"Friendly, I mean. Pleasant, cheerful, sanguine, magnanimous." Well, there was that look again. "Did his wife like the present, at least?"
"I don't know, I'm afraid. I didn't give your flowers to the queen myself." He leaned in slightly. The oil lantern whined on its hinge. "They treated me with about as much courtesy as they should've, if that's what's troubling you."
"That's good. " Anna just missed dropping a lump of porridge on her shoe. "That's really good."
("I don't like that you're going by yourself," Kristoff had frowned. "I mean, why do you have to be there in person? Can't they take your word in writing? Or just fling rotten tomatoes at him in the city square and be done with it?"
She'd wanted to take his hands too, but he'd kept them tucked into his pockets the whole time. They held the tension between them like a piece of gold wire.
"Hey, now. If there's going to be any rotten-tomato-throwing business, I should be first in line. Or maybe they'll let me punch him in the face again. How 'bout that? I think that'd make it worth the trip.")
She walked to the starboard-side bow, stepping carefully as though the unsteady deck underfoot would spook. A thin line of gray light began to brighten up the east, turning to first pink and then orange, and by the time the fog lifted altogether she could make out a strip of land in the distance.
Arendelle, she'd often thought, was pretty small to be called a kingdom. It fit snugly up against the steep hillsides, circled all around by the mountains and the fjord like a child sitting in its parent's lap.
Not that Anna had much in the way of comparison, of course, because she'd never been anywhere else, but she'd spent the last six months learning more about the Southern Isles than she had in the previous nineteen years put together.
It was colored yellow on all the maps. The facts were listed in square, black font: consolidated, 1397 AD. Main exports: grain, cattle, iron. Colonies: St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Caribbean, Sempore and Trankebar in India. Weather: damp, mild. Reigning monarch: King Frederic of House Oldenburg. His heirs were listed underneath by order of birth: Prince Magnus, Prince Niels, Prince Erik, Prince Gustav, Prince Kristian, Prince Adolph, Prince Ludwig, Prince Albert, Prince Siegfried, Prince Harold, Prince Elias, and Prince Kay. The first five names had been written in gold, the other seven in purple.
(The book in question, naturally, had been written before it could be noted that King Frederic was dead, leaving both the crown and a bankrupted realm to his eldest son. Anna had taken it upon herself to record that information, scribbling it into the margin along with one last name in red ink below all the rest.
There might've also been the doodle of a face added, one bearing a pair of sideburns and a set of curved horns sprouting from its temples, but Anna admitted no knowledge of that afterwards.)
Out of these names and images, she'd managed to create something like a picture of what the Southern Isles would look like: vast, crowded, overbearing, gray, narrow streets trodden to mud by the hooves of animals led into slaughterhouses. But as the ship beat itself forward against an outgoing tide, she watched the shadow of land become green hills and cliffs and houses, flags lifting themselves up over the rooftops to greet her.
And it was small, Anna realized. From this distance she could cover it from sight with one hand.
("I do hereby request the presence of her highness, Princess Anna of Arendelle," the letter had stated, bearing King Magnus's seal, "and her appearance before the assembled magistrates and nobility of the Southern Isles on June 13th, day of Saint Antony of Padua, to act as chief witness in the criminal trial of Prince Hans Frederic Westerguard of House Oldenburg."
"So that's his last name," Anna had remarked, after the letter was read aloud to their counselors. "No wonder he never told me.")
Something within her seemed to be winding itself up, pulling tighter-tighter-tighter like a spool of thread being gathered in, and Anna considered wishing for the wind to change. But that would be rude, and discourteous to the men who'd stayed awake all night to see her safely into harbor, so she decided not to.
The ship gave a hard tilt. Anna tightened a hand around the railing.
Soon they were close enough that she could see the bright patterns of the flags, and the individual faces of people milling about in the marketplace. It did seem crowded, at least.
She glanced down into her porridge bowl, realized that she had no appetite anyway, and dumped the rest of it overboard.
Two men stood waiting for her at the docks.
They wore blue double-breasted military jackets and matching swords at their sides, and though the weather was warm Anna suddenly felt reassured in her choice of dress: high-collared, narrow-sleeved, dark green skirts swirling about her ankles without the fuss of pleats or bows or lace petticoats. And as she stepped down the gangplank, Anders walking close behind her, she made sure to stomp her boots just a bit.
"Princess Anna of Arendelle has honored us by coming." The older of the two soldiers, with a large blond beard covering most of his face, extended a broad hand. "My name is Jens. This is Klaus. King Magnus has asked us to be your escorts."
"It's very nice to –," Anna halted halfway through dropping into a curtsy of her own. "I mean, thank you. Sirs."
Klaus, the younger of the two by several years, stepped forward next. "May I see your summons, Princess?"
"Sure. They're, um, here." As she drew the papers from one sleeve, wind snatched at the top few sheets. She jumped to catch them. "Right here."
Klaus and Jens paused to read the papers over. Anders spoke with the dock master and ordered workers to carry down her traveling valises.
Anna could name at least a few of the larger sailing ships anchored in the yard, including a three-masted nave that flew a French flag. That one had probably brought the other dignitaries here, she figured, and the barque with pennants of red and black had likely carried in the Duke of Weselton. She counted two brigantines, three frigates, and a twelve-gun sloop before she got bored.
Several fishermen hurried by with full nets, and Anna looked again at the people.
Women moved about the clean, swept streets selling food and wares, while men stood in groups of three or four and stepped absentmindedly aside to let children run past. Crowded, she thought again. Especially for an early morning.
"Excuse me," Anna said. "But is there a festival going on? It seems awful busy. I didn't forget the king's birthday or something, did I?"
Klaus looked at her, stamped the papers, and rolled them up into his belt. "Oh, no, don't mind them. It's just that…Hold on. Jens, when did the court sentence Ragnar?"
"Ragnar the Red? Let me think. King Frederic's second wife was still alive, wasn't she? I'd say it's been a good thirty-five years or so."
"That's right, and we all took a holiday for Prince Albert's birth the next week." Jens turned to leave, indicating that Anna would walk between them while the rest of her procession followed. "You'll have to forgive them a little excitement, milady. It's been a long time since this city got to watch a public beheading."
She wasn't sure if she'd heard him correctly, and for a moment her pulse threw black spots up in front of her vision.
Snow, she thought. Ice. Shattering steel. A cold fire, fading embers, a bare hand touching her face through the dark.
Snow, ice, shattering steel.
When her heart didn't slow down, she tried a few breaths instead. "He's not – the trial hasn't been held yet. They shouldn't, um, be waiting for anything, should they?"
"Yes, milady. Of course." Jens and Klaus began to walk in a matched stride, but continued conversing over Anna's head. "I hear Weselton just hangs them nowadays. What do you think of that?"
"A short drop and a sudden stop." Klaus shook his head. "Too easy, if you ask me."
Fandom consensus is that the Southern Isles are meant to roughly represent Denmark, while Arendelle is in Norway. Denmark executed its last prisoner via decapitation in 1882, while the style of dress and architecture (forgiving an understandable lack of firearms) places the movie's events roughly around the 1840s. Andersen's story "The Snow Queen" was also published in 1845, so there's that.
I'll probably be fudging things a little and stirring the anachronism stew quite a bit. Most of the important plot points should already be set in place...Also, I still have a hard time believing that the same film gave us both a character ready and willing to murder a defeated woman and a talking, pun-stuffed snowman. Consolidation and tone will be difficult.
Questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, ideas, and critiques are all welcome. Thank you for reading.