"God help us, Captain! Looks like you put too much juice into this one!"
"You can say that again, Joe!"
Don Ushuiki grunted as another wave caused him to stumble into the ships wheel, his little ship bobbing around like a rubber duck in a child's bathtub. It was a sleek vessel, smaller than his father's ship, but the little Sturmfisch was faster than any other ship in the fleet of Valdiston. Being the Prince, even under a miserly man such as Ivan the Brutal, did have its advantages. And it had given him a certain amount of freedom.
There was no greater feeling than being able to get away from my father for the first time. He thought. But now… this order of his to go to Arendelle, this strange mission he's sent me on…
His ship only had a crew of thirty, all good men that he'd hired on from Valdiston's merchant fleet, not its pirate fleet, and they were all standing atop the deck, knowing that if they rolled, being stuck within the floating hull would be a true death sentence.
"Damn this weather!" He yelled. His powers had started it when they'd been fifty miles from shore, using it to propel the Sturmfisch forwards. But he'd apparently fed too much power into the storm, something that had never happened before, because when he'd ceased using his powers, the storm had remained, and even began to grow in ferocity.
But the lashing winds and the rain that go carried along with it didn't bother him. Nor did the salty water that poured over him as they tacked into the ferocious gale. Back and forth they were forced to go, as the wind shifted and the waves became greater and greater.
"Joe, I don't know how much more she can take!" He yelled as he his lovely schooner began to wallow at the top of a particularly large wave. The wind shifted as he spoke, coming roaring in from aft. The sails popped and stretched as they cupped the wind, and the Sturmisch leapt forward. "There we go! That's a good girl!"
Joe came up beside him, he was a skinny man, a few years older than Don's eighteen, though he always tried to claim he was an old man. He helped Don get the wheel around, fighting the wind and waves. They both turned at the call from the man near the bow.
"Shoal off the port side! A hundred feet and closing!"
Don cursed to himself, looking to Joe for a little advice. The other man just shrugged, and began to fight the wheel back the other way. A wave washed over the deck, the freezing water soaking them to the bone.
"Fifty feet!" The call came. Don and Joe strained even harder, wrenching the wheel around as hard as their already exhausted muscles could. "Twenty five!"
The crew was knocked to the deck as the ship grounded for a moment. Don could taste blood in his mouth, but he was back at the wheel in only a moment. The Sturmfisch dragged itself past the shoal, groaning as something down below cracked. The lighthouse at the north end of the bay was just visible through the clouds. As were the jagged rocks at its base.
"We need to stay away from the shore!" Joe yelled, the howl of the wind dragging his voice away so that it was barely a whisper. "Bring us to port!"
Don shook his head.
"Look at that sea towards the mouth of the bay!" He retorted, nodding towards the mountainous gyre of water. "We'll take our chances with the shore!"
Joe looked at him as if he were crazy, but checked his remarks. He knew whose son he was, and though his father was a brutal madman, he was still hailed as the greatest sailor in a history of great sailors.
"Fine! But if we sink, I'll be yelling I told you so as we drown!"
Don smiled for a moment, before filling his lungs to bellow.
"Distance to the rocks!"
"Four hundred feet to the headland, three hundred to the outermost rocks!"
This is going to be close!
"Aweigh the port anchor," He yelled, the winds scream carrying it to the men at the bow. They grabbed the winch that would lower the heavy metal anchor, and lowered it so it was just barely touching the water's surface. "Hold…. Hold…"
"Two hundred fifty feet!"
"Drop the anchor!"
Joe turned to look at him, disbelief in his eye.
"Don't tell me you're going to try to that!"
Don just smiled, just as the anchor grounded. He could feel it in his feet, and could hear the anchor chain snap taut. The ship heeled over, the aft swinging around as the anchor became its point of rotation. The Sturmfisch, seconds before heading directly towards the jagged breakers, was now swinging away, its bow pointing at something like a forty five degree angle from the shore.
"Fifty feet!" The lookout called, before his voice rose again. "I can see rocks under the keel!"
Something dragged along the ships bottom, and Don cringed, knowing that a rock had likely just opened up a massive rent in the ship's hull.
"Oh, my poor ship!" He said, as a man confirmed his fears. A rock had torn a jagged hull in the keel, and the icy cold water was already nearly ankle deep in the hold. "Release the anchor!
His crew snapped to, a pair of sledgehammers beating through the heavy bolt that held the port anchor chain. They added their own thunder to the cacophony of noise about them, and after a dozen smacks from the two sailors, the anchor dropped away and the Stumfisch settled back level in the water.
"Looks like we'll have to beach her!" Joe said, as they entered the slightly sheltered area of Arendelle's bay. "There! Take us another point into the wind!"
Don took his advice, and the Sturmfisch, slowly taking on water, obeyed his command.
Anna stood on the shore next to Elsa, Kristoff and the rest of their little group, her eyes riveted on the ship that had just turned around the headland that the northern lighthouse lay upon. A gasp had gone up from the crowd as they saw the ships sails appear, nearly right on a grouping of rocks. Anna had to admit that it was a pretty little ship, without the ugly raised deck at the rear.
"Whoever's captaining that ship is a damn-, I mean a brave man," A member of Arendelle's navy commented, checking himself when he noticed the cloaked Queen and Princess. "Most men would have just headed out into the ocean and done their best not to sink. But these men…"
"I can see its pennant!" Called out another officer, who was trying to cover his spyglass with one hand and hold it with the other. "It's…"
The man paused, and Anna moved closer to him, squinting into the rain.
"Its pennant is blue," The man finally said, and everyone turned to him as he put the spyglass down. "Quartered with a prancing bull. That ship is from Valdiston."
Another gasp escaped the crowd, but Anna's eyebrows scrunched together in confusion.
"Um, where is Valdiston?" She asked politely, drawing everyone's attention to herself. "And why does everyone seem so frightened?"
"My lady," One naval officer responded, bowing slight to her, "Valdiston is… well, have you ever heard of Ivan the Brutal?"
A memory from years before, when she had been a lonely little girl locked away in the castle. She'd been perusing the library, looking for something to read other than the cheesy romances that so populated her parent's library. She'd found a book about pirates, a swashbuckling tale that was claimed to be based upon the life of someone called Ivan the Deplorable.
"Wait, you mean they're pirates?"
"No," The officer responded, looking out at the slowly sinking ship, "They aren't anymore, at least not too our knowledge. But Valdiston is still a distasteful, rough place. And it's also on the other side of the land from us. So this ship has come quite a long way."
Anna nodded, looking to Elsa, who stood like a beautiful statue, her cloak taking the battering of rain and wind.
"What are we going to do, Elsa?" She asked, turning to see Kristoff eating a carrot with Sven. She'd tried to get him to stop that habit, but he just couldn't seem to break it. "Will you stop that, Kristoff?"
He shrugged, and then slowly let Sven have another piece, before taking another bite himself.
She sighed theatrically, and turned back to her sister, who was stepping towards the shore.
"What are you doing Elsa?"
Her sister looked over her shoulder.
"We can't let those men drown, not in our own harbor," She looked towards the other officers, "Be prepared to render whatever aid is possible."
"But my queen, they are pirates!" One protested, but ceased as Elsa turned her gaze upon him.
"Admiral Ylvis," She said in that calm, but berating way she did, "These men are likely to die if we don't help them. The first half of a year of my reign shall not be marked by my people allowing others to die simply because they are 'pirates'. Something that is still to be seen!"
And with that she stepped to the edge. Her hands began to move, sending streamers of snow sliding outwards. The atmosphere changed around Anna, an almost electric feeling that overtook her. All eyes were riveted on Elsa as she danced, her powers sending waves of brilliant energy outwards. Ice began to form, encrusting the surface of the sea. The air grew chill, and Anna was forced to step away from her sister and into Kristoff's arms.
The little ship, sitting a couple of feet lower in the water than when it first rounded the headland, shuddered to a halt as the ice reached it, wrapping around it. But the sudden cessation of its forward motion had consequences.
Anna winced as she saw some of the men on its deck thrown forward, and its masts snapped, sending the canvas sails and debris raining down upon the deck.
She almost thought she could hear an anguished yell and someone screaming "My poor ship!" as some of the officers scrambled onto the ice.
A half hour passed as men were rescued from the ship. In that time, the skies had calmed noticeably, and the sea, at least that outside of the frozen bay, had gone from a roiling mass to a choppy mess.
All the while Anna and Elsa waited by the shore, waiting. They saw an anchor drop, smashing through the ice surrounding the ship.
Finally the officers led what looked like a portion of the ship's crew. Anna's eyes drifted across the group, stopping on the tall man that led them. His brown hair was short, and his face was clean shaved. He was broad shouldered, long of limb and thin in the waist, and Anna could see a ripple of muscle under his coat.
But though he had all the ingredients to be a handsome man, Anna could not get past the scar that ran along his jar, curving upwards slightly towards his ear.
Her observations ceased as the men came to a halt in front of Elsa, and the man dropped to a knee. She saw his mouth open to speak, but Elsa cut him off.
"Who are you? And why have you come to my kingdom?" Her sister said regally.
The man's eyes darted to her sister, and lingered there slightly over long before he responded.
"I am Donner Ushkui," He said, his voice not as deep as Anna thought it would be. His accent was unpleasantly heavy. "And you are, My lady?"
Anna could see Elsa scowl, knowing exactly who the man in front of her reminded them. From reports, Hans of the Southern Isles would not be seeing daylight for at least another six months, and even then he likely wouldn't enjoy it.
"I am Queen Elsa of Arendelle."
"Ah, you are the Ice Queen," Donner said, his eyes glinting slightly. "My father sent me here too meet with you. To discuss an alliance between our two nations."
"You're here too…?" Elsa repeated, as the implication of what he'd said sunk in.
A murmur went up from the crowd, the sound of conversation doubling as the young man stood before them, revealed to be a Prince.
"I apologize for any inconvenience, Queen Elsa of Arendelle," The man went on, "But my father Ivan the Third of Valdiston, wished me to arrive with all due diligence."
"Why?" Elsa said shortly, as royal guards began to send the crowd back to their business.
"I believe it would be better to speak in private, with your court, Your Majesty."
Elsa nodded, and they began to short walk from the docks and piers to the castle. Donner walking confidently with a pair of his men, surrounded by a cordon of sword wielding royal guards. The entourage swept into the throne room.
Anna followed Elsa towards the throne, coming to stand next to it. Kristoff stood close by, while Donner came to stand before the throne.
"Now what is it you wish to speak of, Prince Donner?" Elsa asked, obviously annoyed.
"Your Majesty," He said, bowing his head slightly and removing a leather pouch tied with several strings. "I bring dispatches from my father. Two months ago we had a representative of Weselton. It seems that your stopping trade with them has… frazzled them."
He handed the pouch to a guard, who after inspecting it, handed it to Elsa. Anna stepped closer, peeking down as Elsa pulled it open, dropping several folded up pieces of paper into her lap. She unfolded one, and it revealed a brilliantly detailed map, detailing the entirety of the local lands. Several arrows had been drawn on it, most starting from Weselton, and terminating in the vicinity of Arendelle.
"What am I looking at here, Prince Donner?"
"Please, your Majesty, call me Prince Don, it makes things so much easier," He said quietly, "And it is a map, given to my father by the Duke of Weselton, detailing Weselton's planned invasion of Arendelle. It seems they wish to force open Arendelle for trade."
Anna gasped, looking at the Prince.
"Why would you bring this to us?"
Elsa's question was uttered into the silence of the grand hall.
"Because my father so ordered it, Your Majesty." Prince Don said, looking about, "We do not wish to see Weselton elevated any further. They already encroach in our territory, with this, you and your allies could easily defeat their combined forces."
Everyone stared at the Prince, as he plainly laid out the not so pure motivations behind his arrival. Something spattered on the ground next to him, and it was then that Anna noticed the blood dripping down his arm.
"Elsa, he is injured!" She said, looking at her sister. Elsa was looking down at the maps, and only looked up when Anna touched her shoulder. She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Comeon, you need to offer him hospitality."
Elsa sighed, placing the paper on the arm of her throne.
"Prince Don," She said quietly, "I have been remiss. Please allow my servants to… tend to your wound and find you some proper clothing. Then it would be Our pleasure if you would join us for dinner."
The Prince nodded, allowing himself to be led away by Kai and Gerda.
"Elsa!" Anna said once he was gone, "How could you be so rude! He is a guest!"
"Look what he has brought us, Anna." Elsa replied coolly, spreading the papers back out, they were more maps and dispatches, showing that several of the smaller kingdoms were likely to join Weselton in their attack. "That prince has brought us war… And under such short circumstances."
"You don't trust him?"
"Of course not!" Elsa said, rubbing her cheek. "But, if we do not act upon this immediately…"
"Then Arendelle may be in danger," Anna finished. "I understand, but if this is true, then we will need all the help we can get!"
Elsa nodded her agreement, before tiredly standing.
"Today has been quite a hectic day," She said, brushing past Anna, "I think I will go freshen myself up for dinner."
Anna watched her go, sighing as she saw the gulf that had only recently healed between her and her sister reopening.
Why can't life ever be simple?