Chapter 78

"What now?" asked Ruth in a hushed voice. She, her parents, Olaf, and Kristoff were standing just outside Elsa's bedroom.

"A lot is riding on pre-existing magical processes," said Alex softly. He looked around for one of the dimly glowing balls of ice in the gaslight fixtures. He touched it and it brightened. Another touch dimmed it. "So far so good, but we should make sure the more complicated processes still work."

"If I survived, why wouldn't all the rest of them?" asked Olaf.

"Olaf, your creation was special," whispered Kristoff. "A lot of emotion and good memories went into you."

The door opened and a frowning Anna stuck her head out and hissed, "Go away. You're worrying is keeping Elsa awake."


Alex led the way to the royal stables and the de-oxygenated-air liquefier. He used a match to light the candles in the apparatus. He kept his voice low as he said, "If Olaf's creation was special because of emotion and a spontaneous recollection of good memories, Queen Elsa's creation of this apparatus could be considered the opposite, a matter of complex planning and tightly controlled execution."

The dry-ice and liquid nitrogen reservoirs of the device filled. Alex blew out the candles, picked up one of the vacuum bottles commonly left nearby, placed it under the liquid nitrogen reservoir, touched the bottom of the reservoir, and watched as the reservoir drained into the bottle and most of the liquid boiled away. He left the dry ice reservoir alone and watched as the powder inside sublimed and the carbon dioxide was vented away by the pressure relief valve.

Alex motioned the party to follow him and led them to the Lab. Once they got there, Sarah checked to make sure the emergency supply boxes had been relocked. She knew all too well Alex's tendency to forget details when focused on a goal.

"All the various interlocking processes that make up the gas liquefier appear to be working perfectly," said Alex. "I think we can be reasonably certain that the rest of the processes Queen Elsa has created have continued."

"I don't want to trust my life to 'reasonably certain' when the WUSO armada arrives," said Kristoff. "Can we please test the harbor defenses? Just for my peace of mind?"

"I'd be willing to test them," said Alex, "if I knew how they were supposed to operate. I never worked on them with Elsa. Do you know how they're supposed to function?"

"Oh. No, I don't," said Kristoff. "We'll have to wait on testing those."

"Then I guess we're finished for now," said Sarah. "Kristoff, Olaf, please keep us informed how Elsa's doing. I don't suppose anyone's going to be able to pry Anna away until she's sure one way or the other whether Elsa will live or die."

"Keep thinking good thoughts," called out Olaf as the Morris family left to go home. He and Kristoff went back up to check on Anna and Elsa.


Gotta pee. Gotta pee!

Elsa took care of the biological necessities, then returned to bed.

Cold.

Tired.


In Corona, Rapunzel and Eugene conferred with her father in his office.

"It was weird, Dad. One moment everything was normal, and in the next I was chilled to the bone and there was ice all around me."

"You seem fine now," said Philip.

"By the time I got there, everything was back to normal," said Eugene. "And believe me, as soon as I heard about it, I moved."

"So it was a quick magical intrusion of cold that only affected Rapunzel. Hmmm. Wait a moment." Philip went to his files and pulled out the schedule of WUSO rendezvous times. He sat back down at his desk where he referred to the calendar to confirm the date (May 13th).

"I figure it has to be something to do with the Snow Queen," said Eugene a puzzled look on his face, "but I can't figure out why she'd attack Rapunzel." His face cleared as inspiration struck. "Unless Mr. Microscope screwed up badly enough that we're in for glaciers. Wouldn't surprise me. Actually, it's a wonder it took this long."

Philip leaned back in his chair, pondered for a moment, then shook his head and said, "No."

"Dad? Do you know what's going on?"

"I think so. If I'm right, it's not an attack. At least not on you or Corona." Philip stood and paced a bit. "I've had you working on other things, so you aren't privy to our naval intelligence. In a week Sathor, Uleway, Ostrythe, and Weselton will be assembling an armada a day or two's sailing from Arendelle, presumably so it'll be in position to invade."

"Isn't going up against the Snow Queen tantamount to suicide?" asked Eugene.

"Yes. Unless, that is, Queen Elsa has been eliminated."

Pieces fell into place for Rapunzel. "They tried to assassinate her!"

"Exactly. But since the Morris family took an abbreviated diplomatic supply chest, they had your healing potions."

"Abbreviated?" asked Eugene.

"No code books," said Philip. He shook his head. "Not important."

"Wait, wait, wait. You think our magics clashed?"

"Yes. Yours seems to have won."

"And thank goodness. But does that mean Queen Elsa's healed? Or that she's dead? Can she live if her magic's been vanquished?"

"I don't know. We're going to have to trust that Alex and Sarah know what they're doing and wait for word from Arendelle. In any case, I doubt you'll be afflicted with a repetition of the ice."

"We're going to have to have a hearing, aren't we?" asked Rapunzel. "If they survive the invasion and come home, that is. I mean, without Queen Elsa's magic to defend it, that armada is going to roll right over Arendelle."

"Hold that thought," said Philip. He stood and opened the magic ice-lamp. Its appearance hadn't changed. He touched it, and it flared into brilliant light. He touched it again, turning it off, and returned to his seat. "Spells she's already made appear to keep working. If our warning got there in time, Queen Elsa may have set things up so that Arendelle is a trap rather than a victim."

"So everything will be all right? Alex and his family will survive and come home?" asked Rapunzel.

"Not necessarily. It depends on what happened to Queen Elsa. She was a beloved monarch. If Alex and Sarah's attempt to heal her ended up killing her, it won't go well for them."

Eugene snorted. "Ironic."

"What?" asked Rapunzel.

"We may have to prevent Arendelle from killing Mr. Microscope so we can bring him home to try him for using the healing potion."


Thirsty.

Tired.


Kristoff looked at the residence Anna had sent him to. Anna was sure that the seamstress who lived here would be capable of handling a confidential rush job on shades to block Elsa's beacons, and motivated to assist the royal family.

Kristoff knocked on the door. It was opened by a middle aged woman he didn't recognize, but felt he ought to. He looked at the address he'd been given again. "Mrs. Linder?" Oh, that explained it. She was Bernard Linder's mother. She'd built the prototype safety harness, and kept it secret. And the Linder family had received one of Elsa's lamps.

Karen Linder had no trouble recognizing Kristoff. "Yes, Royal Ice Master? Please, come in. What can I do for you?"


Gotta pee.

Tired.


Once Kristoff learned from Anna how the harbor defenses were supposed to work, he invited Alex for a rowboat trip on the fjord. They brought lunch, fishing rods, bait, a flintlock musket, and a crossbow along for the ride.

Once they were on the water and far enough from shore to ensure that they wouldn't be overheard, Alex asked, "What's the plan?"

Kristoff said, "I was thinking we'd find a spot along the shore that's not occupied and do some shooting. Elsa's spell should stop the shots from reaching the shore. We won't do a lot of shooting, mind you. And whatever we do, we won't fire the musket more than three times in ten minutes."

"Why not?"

"That triggers the nasty side of the defense spell, and we'd be surrounded by a two hundred foot high tall wall of unmeltable and unbreakable ice. And so will every other ship within a mile of the castle."

"I'm thinking one shot should suffice." Alex paused as something nagged at him. "That business of surrounding everything on the water in a cage of ice seems a bit of an over-reaction."

"Anna told me there are three levels to the nasty side, one that does nothing, one that surrounds any single ship that fires more than three shots in ten minutes, and one that will surround everything floating on the water with people on board. I guess Elsa wants to take out the entire armada as soon as they start shooting."

"That makes sense. As long as the spell can be reset by someone other than a fully powered Elsa."

"Yeah. Anna didn't give me any details, but she knows how to change the response."

Kristoff rowed until their boat was out of sight of the city, close to the edge of the fjord. This far from the city, the fjord edge was too steep for human use, covered in nothing but scrub, moss and lichen. Alex loaded the musket, aimed at the shore and pulled the trigger. The bullet was embedded in ice and stopped almost immediately, certainly well before it reached the cliff.

"Does the nasty side of the defense get triggered only for chemical explosions, or does a projectile of any type trigger it? Say, for instance, a thrown stone or a crossbow bolt?"

"Supposedly only explosions. But if you'd rather not risk it, I'm fine with that. We know that the purely defensive stuff works, so I feel a bit better about trusting the magical defenses that Elsa's put in place."

Alex used the push lever to cock the crossbow, fitted a bolt onto the stock, and fired at the shore. Once again, the projectile was caught in ice, and dropped into the fjord. "Are you satisfied now? The processes Elsa set in motion remain active, and Arendelle has a viable defense."

"I was pretty sure everything would be fine when the gas liquefier worked. But since I'm likely to be one of those facing the WUSO cannons, you can't blame me for wanting to make sure that everything still works."

"No, I can't." Alex pulled out a pocket watch and looked at the time. "I'm not due back at the college for another couple of hours. Shall we try to catch dinner?"


Anna was sitting by Elsa's bed doing some paperwork when she heard a gentle knock. She went to the door, and upon opening it saw a couple of guards with the harbormaster, who bowed. With a look back to see that Elsa hadn't been disturbed, she came into the hallway, closed the door, and motioned for Sigurd Pedersen, the harbormaster, and the guard who'd escorted him up to follow her. She led them to the office next to Elsa's, which she'd taken over once it had become clear that she'd need an office for herself. She unlocked and opened the door. "Come in."

"Thank you, Your Highness," said Sigurd. He entered, and, when Anna gestured to a chair, sat. "What can I do for you today."

"I want you to prepare to shut down the port."

"The captains of the merchant ships in port will protest."

Anna sagged in her chair. "My sister is dying. I'm going to proclaim a week long period of mourning when she succumbs. Nothing is to move in or out of Arendelle during that time. No exceptions, harbormaster. If the captains don't want to be delayed, they'd best leave soon. This shutdown will be imposed nationwide."

"How long does Queen Elsa have?"

Anna sighed. "Not long. Dr. Lohne says that the absolute best that can be hoped is for her to last until Saturday."

"I'm so sorry, Your Highness. Queen Elsa was wonderful."

Anna noted the harbormaster's use of the past tense. She couldn't bring herself to use it. "She is." Anna paused. "Can I ask a favor of you?"

"Anything, Your Highness."

"Can you go to the communications room and get in touch with the harbormasters up and down the coast? I don't think I can bring myself to go through this conversation too many times."

"Certainly. And if there's anything else I can do to help you, please ask."

"Thank you Mr. Pedersen."


Gotta pee.

No need to hold back the ice. Ever again. No more flying as a bird, no more music from thin air, no more glowing ice displays, no more regalia with a wave of my hand, no more controlling the winds, no more feel for the weather. No more working with Alex to learn and push my limits.

Thirsty.

No more lamps. No more telescopes. No more communications terminals. No more safety harnesses. No more shielded ships. No more improving lives in my kingdom.

Tired.


On Tuesday it was clear that Elsa was not getting worse, so Marshmallow and Olaf took some time so Olaf could learn the basics of shapeshifting. The first problem was finding a private place to practice. Anna suggested the Lab, as hardly anyone ever went went near the place. Marshmallow perched on Olaf's head as he waddled to the Lab.

Once he'd locked the door, Olaf asked, "How do we start?"

Marshmallow flew to the floor and started growing, glowing as new snow accreted. While he grew, he changed shape and within moments there appeared to be two Olafs in the room (only one, however, had a personal flurry). Olaf asked, "Where did you get twigs, coal, and a carrot?"

"They're snow with a layer of special ice to make them look like twigs, coal, and a carrot. If Elsa did for you what she did for me, you should be able to create colored ice too. Try it. Concentrate on changing color."

Olaf concentrated. And turned blue. Then orange. Then overlaid the orange with black tiger stripes. Then the stripes started flowing and moving. "Ooh! Can I be shiny?" In a wave that started from the base of his nose, Olaf's coloration was replaced with a silver mirror-like reflective surface. He looked down at himself. "It's like I'm made of liquid metal! Gee, I wish I could see what I look like. Ooh! Ooh! Show me, Marshmallow, show me."

Marshmallow, who hadn't yet considered shiny as a part of his possible repertoire, concentrated and went reflective.

Once he took in the whole picture, Olaf leaned close to Marshmallow's Olaf-like torso and was entranced by the infinity of distorted mirror reflections of his mirror-like self.

After a few seconds of this inspection, Marshmallow had enough, and said, "We should continue," and went back to looking like the original Olaf.

Olaf, disappointed, said, "Aww," leaned back, and also resumed his normal color scheme. He perked up. "Ok. What's next?"

"Changes in structure." Marshmallow reached over and plucked off Olaf's arms and put them on a lab table. "Make new arms from snow and ice."

Olaf concentrated. Marshmallow waited expectantly. No arms grew from Olaf's torso. Olaf's brow furrowed as he tried harder. Nothing happened. "It's no use," said Olaf. "I can't think of new arms when I already have old ones."

Marshmallow reattached Olaf's arms. "Cover your arms with snow and change their shape."

Olaf tried again, and this time his arms glowed and thickened as each of them grew a layer of snow. Olaf, who had seen plenty of people, and knew what arms looked like, adjusted the snow as it accreted and made a passable pair of well muscled arms with reasonable shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The hands, however were a problem. Olaf had managed reasonable imitations of palms and digits (with knuckles and fingernails), but each hand had only a thumb and three fingers.

"That's not good," said Marshmallow.

"Why not? Lots of people have lost fingers or toes to accidents."

"If your coal, carrot, and other twigs are as much a part of you as your arms are, they limit you. The best you can do is cover them."

"Oh. So no little birds?"

"Yes. And because they can't grow, there is only so large you can grow. A twenty foot tall snowman looks silly with tiny little arms." Another disturbing though occurred to Marshmallow. "Can you make knees?"

Olaf sat on the floor and looked at the balls of snow that served him as legs and feet. He stood up and reshaped his abdomen so that it had two thigh-like extensions, and stretched the balls of snow he waddled on so they looked like lower legs. Since the upper legs didn't actually have anything to act as joints at the hips, they were immobile. Olaf tried walking. Only the lower legs moved. He walked only from the knees down.

Marshmallow had seen enough people walking (and, to be honest, running away), that it looked decidedly creepy and unnatural.

Olaf seemed to realize how weird his gait made him look and concentrated for a moment, then started walking again. This time his upper legs moved and the walk still looked odd, but a lot more human.

By this time Olaf was an odd sight: snowman's head, human looking arms attached to snowman's torso, reshaped abdomen attached to the torso, and two more or less human looking legs (without actual feet) supporting him. Well, at least he was taller.

Marshmallow looked up at Olaf and said, "I should teach you to fly. We may be called upon to travel far and fast in the coming days."

Olaf dissipated the snow on his arms, and returned to his original shape (and height).

Marshmallow considered the constraints on Olaf's transformations and wondered if there was an existing bird that Olaf could be reshaped as. Then he gave up. Nothing had a beak shaped like Olaf's nose. That wasn't really a problem. He'd tried out enough bird shapes that he had a good idea what would fly and what wouldn't. He shrank and changed into something sparrow shaped, then flew to the top of Olaf's head. "We need to go someplace private to practice."


Anna received confirmation from harbormasters up and down the coast that all the ships that had had been in Arendelle's ports were either preparing to leave or already under way. Now all she had to do was wait for the beacon shades to be finished, and they were due to be ready tomorrow.


No more magic. No more Snow Queen. Only human. Just Queen Elsa.

Tired.


Wednesday morning Mrs. Linder delivered the shades. Anna dispatched groups of soldiers toward the beacons. Each group of soldiers was to be based at a beacon and had a shade to use to cover it. Once in place, they'd use the communication links left at the beacon lodges so they could report on the invasion as it happened.

When she hadn't been working, sleeping, or eating, Anna had kept watch by Elsa's bedside, helping in any way she could and looking for any sign that Elsa was truly healed.

It was clear that Elsa was no longer showing symptoms of kidney failure. The fever, edema, itching, and sleeplessness that had plagued her were gone. Although still bedridden, she was recovering nicely, to Anna's relief and joy.

Anna wasn't so sure about Elsa's emotional state. In her increasingly long periods awake, Elsa had been moody, argumentative, and devoid of humor. Elsa seemed particularly prickly today.

"Has the word gone out that the ports will be shutting down upon my death?"

"Yes. Ships loaded and left as quick as they could. There aren't any left, so it'll be tough for any news of your survival to get out."

"I want as few innocents as possible caught up in what's coming. Any ship with a crew onboard that's still here when the guns go off is going to be cursed, and once that happens I can't undo it. Get them gone."

"I've done what I can to get the harbormasters moving things along."

"The shades are on their way?"

"Yes. They were dispatched this morning."

"They need to make it by Saturday."

"They will. Even if they have to take the old coast road. Even accounting for the usual unsettled spring weather."

"We can't have any slip-ups. We'll only have one chance to nip this in the bud. We have to get it right or we'll be dodging assassins for the rest of our lives. We'll probably be doing that anyway."

"The shades will get there. What's with you, Elsa? Why are you so prickly? You've been healed! You're going to live! Ok, so you don't have your magic anymore, but is that really a problem? For years you considered it a curse… wait, is that what's got you down?"

"Of course it is." Elsa sighed. "Anna, I haven't considered my magic a curse since you thawed. And these past nine months, pushing my limits, extending my knowledge, has made my magic an intriguing challenge and even a blessing. You, more than anyone, know what I used to be able to do. But even you can't understand the full extent of what I've lost. How far I've been… well, reduced. I'm only human, now. Just ordinary Queen Elsa."

Anna waved that comment away. "Pfft. You were never extraordinary because of your magic, Elsa. Well, never only because of your magic. You are extraordinary because of your compassion, your knowledge, your foresight, your intelligence, your hard work, and your skill at ruling." She grinned. "Having an fantastic sister doesn't hurt either. And you've got to know you're well loved, because the combined sorrow of Arendelle at your possible death helped to heal you."

"There is that."

"We're going to stop this armada, hit the invaders where it hurts, stop the cycle of revenge from starting, and live happily ever after." Anna concluded sternly, "So cut the moping."

Elsa had to smile at that. "Well, happily ever after never seems to last forever, but I'll try to keep from dwelling on the past."

"Right. The past is in the past. So buck up. We're going to need you at your best when we deal with the pirates."


Anna arranged for the civilian and military communications rooms to have their terminals moved to the grand ballroom. It wouldn't do to have to keep running all over the castle to keep things coordinated.


The beacon shades made their way along the coast along with both good and bad news. When the troops ferrying the shades encountered coastal villages, they made sure that there were no foreigners, then passed the news that Queen Elsa had survived the assassination attempt, but that she no longer had magic. They also reassured the villagers that the protections the Queen had established were still operating (by going out in a rowboat and shooting at the shore). Once that news was digested, they informed them that an invasion was imminent, and that no-one should try to resist the invasion from the water. But to make sure to goad them into attacking all the same.


The pirate crews occupying the dungeon had been kept separated. So it didn't surprise Captain Roberts when he didn't recognize the other man the guards were hauling up from another part of the dungeon along with him. He'd certainly have remembered the other man if he'd ever seen him. The left half of his face and neck were riddled with scars and he wore a patch over his left eye. Although, come to think of it, the scars looked quite recent. The other man whispered hoarsely, "I guess they're bringing us up in pairs. The Ice Queen is probably close enough to dying that she can't do too many of these sessions."

"Sessions?" asked Roberts.

"I heard she wants us to sail in defense of Arendelle. Like that's gonna happen."

"She's got her own navy. Why does she need us?"

"Oh yeah, you lot were captured early. Rumor is there's a huge invasion coming. Probably why ol' icy was poisoned. Without her to defend it, Arendelle's a sitting duck."

"Shut it," said one of their guards.

The pirate captains were silent for the rest of the trip to the parlor. One of the guards took them into the room where Elsa, flanked by Anna and Olaf, waited. To Roberts, Elsa appeared haggard and frail, looking literally days from death. She was seated in a wheeled chair, a blanket covering her legs.

"I'll get right to the point," said Elsa, once the captains were standing before her. "In less than a week Arendelle will be invaded by an armada assembled from the navies of Weselton, Uleway, Sathor, and Ostrythe. WUSO. Our navy will not suffice to-"

"There is no way my crew will sail in your defense," interrupted the other pirate captain.

Elsa waved a hand and the scar-faced captain turned white and fell to the floor. His flesh had been turned to snow and tumbled off of his skeleton as he hit. His skeleton had turned to ice, and some of the "bones" shattered with the impact. His clothes served to keep most of the snow and ice from scattering too far.

Anna cried out, "Elsa! Why?"

"I don't have time for arguing. Perhaps the new captain of his ship will be more reasonable. How about you?" asked Elsa of Captain Roberts. "I'm a woman in a hurry. Will you hear me out?"

Roberts nodded, staring in mute horror at the pile of snow, ice, and clothing on the floor.

"Piracy is a capital crime. In peacetime you and your crew would have been hanged. Especially since you and your crew are notorious for leaving no survivors. You are potentially more useful defending Arendelle. Frankly we need all the help we can get. We only received word of this armada a few days ago. Our navy is small and out of position, and I am dying."

"What do you want from me and my crew."

"Fight for Arendelle."

"What's in it for us?"

Elsa pointed to the remains of the scar-faced pirate on the floor between them. "An opportunity to survive. Your lives are mine. If you refuse, you will be executed, if not immediately by me, then by the invaders. If they succeed, do you think they'll let known pirates live?" Elsa paused. "If the armada is turned aside you will be allowed to go your way. Will you sail for us?"

Roberts glanced from Elsa to the fallen body and back, gulped, then nodded.

"Now, you're probably wondering why you should stay on task and not just sail away," said Elsa. "For one thing, all your cannons have been removed and replaced with guns that shoot ice spikes. For another, all but one of your canvas sails have been replaced by ice. Finally, your ship will have the same shields as those you encountered on the Arendelle ship that you tried to take."

Roberts considered. This wasn't such a bad deal after all. There must be a catch. "How long will all those ice creations and shields work?"

"While I'm alive. And as long as you restrict your attacks to WUSO vessels."

"So when you die we'll be in the middle of an enemy armada with a single sail, no guns, and no shields. That's a death sentence. We'll be the floating dead."

"Better the floating dead a few days from now than the frozen dead today, and if you're fast enough you'll be able to get in, do enough damage to the WUSO fleet that they reconsider their invasion, and get out before your sails and guns disappear."

Once more Roberts looked at the scattered chunks of snow and ice on the floor. "It seems I don't have much choice. We will fight for Arendelle."

"Take Captain Roberts to the dungeon so he can explain the situation to his crew. Get them to their ship and on their way," said Elsa. "Oh, and inform a servant that there's a mess to clean up in here. I don't want the floor damaged when the other one melts."

With a last glance at the remains of the other captain, Captain Roberts was taken from the parlor.

Once Elsa was sure that Captain Roberts would not be returning, she said, "That was perfect, Marshmallow."

"Yeah," agreed Anna. "You've really got Alex's look down."

The snow and ice on the ground coalesced, stood up and reformed itself into the scar-faced pirate. Marshmallow settled the clothes and eyepatch about himself and said, "Thank you, Elsa, Anna."

"You're not actually going to let any of the pirates attack the WUSO armada, are you?" asked Anna.

"No, when the first of the pirate's ships gets close enough to be seen by the fleet, we'll trigger the eradication of the magic on all the ships and cover the shore beacons. I'm expecting the pirates to surrender, or even join the armada in exchange for sails and guns, and spread the news that I'm dead and Arendelle's navy won't be in place to defend us."

"Sneaky, sis. I like it."

"Shall I go set up for the next one?" asked Marshmallow.

"Yes," said Elsa. "And tell Kristoff he did a great job as the guard."


Four pirate ships sailed away from Arendelle, heading for the WUSO armada rendezvous location. On their way they tested their new sails and arms.

The ice sails looked as light and insubstantial as gossamer, but they caught the wind well, and by virtue of being lighter were easier to handle and more responsive than canvas once the crews got used to them.

The cannons had been replaced one-for-one with guns of ice that were a wonder to behold and amazing to use. They were much more maneuverable than the cannons and shot two foot long cones of ice, four inches in diameter at the base. These cones were fired at high speed and there must have been some magic involved in their travel because their trajectories didn't deviate from straight lines. A thousand feet from the ship, the cones disintegrated. Firing a gun was a matter of pulling a cord. The limit to the number of shots that could be fired was the speed at which the gunner could aim and pull the cord. Just to see what the true limit was, Captain Roberts had one of his men just fire indiscriminately, as fast as possible. The gunner was able to get more than two hundred shots off in a minute.

Knowing they had formidable weapons and were essentially invulnerable, the pirates were actually eager to get to the armada and inflict some damage.


Over the next few days one or two ships from each of the WUSO navies sailed into the main port of the Southern Isles. The Southern Isles, being in close proximity to, and having good relations with Arendelle (despite the behavior of the youngest prince), was one of the best places to obtain news about what was going on there. In the course of purchasing and taking on supplies, intelligence was gathered. Evidently, Arendelle's Queen and Princess had been poisoned. Arendelle was ripe for invasion.

However, the latest news indicated that Princess Anna had been saved by some sort of magic. That might have been enough to scuttle the invasion plans, but the news also indicated that the same magic couldn't be used to save Queen Elsa. Even so, the prudent thing to do was to find some other way to verify the death of the Ice Witch.


During the early afternoon on Saturday, the first of the pirate vessels sailed within sight of the gathering armada. Elsa was still weak and couldn't spend as much time monitoring the situation as she would have liked, so it was Anna who was in Elsa's office watching to see when to abolish the magic on the pirate's ships.

Anna went to the door. "Henri?"

"Yes, Your Highness," said the guard stationed outside Elsa's office.

"Please let Elsa know that I could use her help."

"Yes, Your Highness." Henri headed off to inform Elsa. Anna closed the office door and went back to watching.

Elsa arrived a few minutes later. "What's going on?"

"The armada and the pirates can see each other. It's almost time to kill the magic on the pirate ships. Can you keep watch while I go get the communication terminals attached to the beacon lodges?"

"Sure." Elsa set herself in front of the magic mirror. The mirror showed the view from the lead pirate ship. Elsa willed it to show her the view from one of the lead ships from the armada. Nothing happened. Elsa sighed. "I guess I have to use the mirror the same way Anna does," she thought. She reached out and changed the view, sad and resentful at having to use the comparatively clumsy manual interface.

Anna returned with the terminals. "When do you want to kill the magic?"

"Before either side starts shooting. Nobody on the WUSO side dies, the pirates think I'm dead so there's no reason to fight for Arendelle anymore, they surrender and misinform the armada's leaders. But wait until a bunch of WUSO ships can get an eyeful of the ice sails and their disappearance."

"All right. Let's let the beacon crews know that it's almost time to use the shades."

Anna arranged the communications terminals of the beacon lodges in a short arc on Elsa's desk. Elsa sat in front of them at the center of the arc, and they all hummed. Faces started appearing above the terminals. In short order the humming stopped and Elsa was face to face with the leaders of the groups stationed at the beacons. They were all surprised and happy to see who it was they were talking with.

While Elsa accepted the well wishes of the beacon crews, Anna retrieved the ice models of the four pirate ships that represented the magic protecting and propelling them. Destroying the models would cause the magic to dissipate. A quick blow with a hammer would do it. Anna was about to leave to find a hammer, when she saw that Elsa had anticipated the need and had one tucked in the corner of the chest where the ship models had been stored.

While Elsa talked with the beacon crew leads about their travels and the condition of the coastal villages, Anna went back to the magic mirror. The pirates and the armada were closing on each other quickly. "Hey, Elsa, it's almost time to douse the lights."

"Right. Are your crews ready gentlemen?"

"Aye." "Ready." "Yes." "Certainly." "Whenever you give the word, Your Majesty."

Anna called out, "Ready? On three. One…Two…Three!"

Anna smashed model pirate ships in under two seconds. The remote crews covered the beacons almost as quickly.

Elsa said, "Thank you, gentlemen. Please remain at the beacon lodges, keep watch, and report anything unexpected." She backed away from the arc of communication terminals and disconnected. The terminals hummed until the men at the other end of the links moved out of range.

Elsa joined Anna at the mirror to watch what was going on at sea.


Faced with an armada and dead in the water, two of the four pirate crews surrendered (the other two pirate ships were blown to smithereens). The tales the survivors told bolstered the confidence of the leaders of the invasion fleet, and the decision was made to proceed with the invasion. The corroborating evidence of the magical shore beacons going out at about the same time as the pirate ships being disabled, which reached the fleet a day out from Arendelle, was icing on the cake.


The word went out: The WUSO armada is coming. The towns and villages along the coast greeted this announcement with much less panic and anxiety than they would have a few days earlier. The verification that the measures put in place by Elsa to defend Arendelle were still working meant that much of the population was actually eager to see how the invasion played out.


On Tuesday morning, when the WUSO ships sailed, one by one, into the harbor and past the castle the prominent decoration they saw was a huge black banner, with large felt weasels and rabbits hastily sewn onto it, and the words, "Simon Says, 'Go Home'," painted in big white letters. Anna was proud of the banner. It had been her idea and she was delighted by the reaction it was provoking. It had something to insult each of the WUSO nations. On the quay underneath the banner stood Anna. Alongside Anna on the quay were Kristoff, some of the cannons taken from the pirate ships, as well as armed soldiers. There was also a sparrow, staying inconspicuous, just in case things went seriously off the rails. It was clear that the invaders weren't welcome.

Admiral Yarnel on the Hammer, a Weselton ship carrying more than a ninety cannons and a complement of over seven hundred men, obtained a megaphone and called out, "Queen Anna! You, and all of Arendelle, are hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered. Are you prepared to discuss terms for surrender?"

Anna kept her temper. Barely. "No. No surrender. You know to call me Queen. You know that Elsa… that Elsa's dead. Your reason for attacking Arendelle, the elimination of a powerful magician, has been achieved, and yet you have the gall to come here and demand that I give up my country to you."

Anna could see that many of the ships were preparing to launch boats. She needed to provoke a reaction quickly. She signaled the men beside her to prepare to fire. "You come with an overwhelming force, but you're so crowded together that we can't miss. You weasels will pay, and pay heavily, for trying to take Arendelle."

Yarnel had heard enough. Time to end this. He called out "Fire."

Forty cannons fired, obliterating the quay and the wharf in front of it. Or at least, that was the idea.

Once the first three shots were fired (and caught by ice), the remaining cannons fizzled, and six inch thick walls of diamond hard ice two hundred feet tall went up around every vessel in the harbor, in the fjord, and out to sea within a mile of the castle. The walls sprang into existence a few inches from the ends of the ship's widest spars. Ice gripped the ships hulls below the waterline. From the sea bed to a height of one hundred feet above the water the walls weren't solid, but were perforated with one inch diameter holes, spaced every foot or so. The top of the wall was surmounted by a sharp edged sawtooth of spikes.

The walls were unyielding, so ships that were in motion when the walls went up came to an abrupt halt. Anything, or anybody, not fastened down kept moving. This resulted in some injuries, and a bit of broken equipment, but the ships remained intact.

Anna said to the men around her, "All right, they're bottled up. Stick around and let me know if they manage to do anything clever." She walked down to the wharf, and got as close to the Hammer as she could. She yelled, "If you're wondering what's going on, here's a clue: I'm still a princess." Then she turned on her heel and, refusing to heed the shouted questions from the ships, walked back to the castle.

On board the walled up ships, contingency plans were put into action. Plan number one, try and melt the ice. Boats were launched to get the fire crews to the wall. For reasons unknown to the fire crews the fires never got very intense, and the ice seemed impervious to the low flames. Plan number two, break the wall. Nothing penetrated the diamond hard ice. Plan number three, climb the wall. Sailors were able to use the holes in the wall to climb the first hundred feet, but the impenetrability of the hundred feet of ice above meant that climbing was impossible. Plan number four, get a rope over the top of the wall and down to the water (considering the temperature of the ocean this only made sense for the ships very close to shore). Getting a rope over the top of the wall was a daunting task, and the sharp edges of the top of the wall frayed and cut the ropes before anyone could get anywhere. The ships were well and truly bottled up.

Marshmallow had also stayed behind to observe. Once he was sure that the situation was unlikely to change, he flew to the castle.


All over the WUSO nations, things got… weird. Scattered glass works, mines, foundries, smelters, steel mills, and factories were hit by odd and inexplicable failures. Pools of molten glass and metal quenching and seizing up, steam engines coming to a halt, explosions to break hard rock failing to happen. And all occurring so apparently at random as to render the cause completely mysterious. Nobody connected the simultaneity and timing of the failures with the invasion of Arendelle.


Anna hurried up to Elsa's bedroom to fill her in on developments.

"You should have seen their faces! Oh-so-smug, figuring they had the upper hand. Their expressions sure changed when the ice walls went up."

"Good. What's going on everywhere else?"

"I stopped in the ball room on my way here. I guess the parts of the fleet invading the rest of Arendelle had even less patience than the one that attacked here. Last anybody had heard, almost the entire armada was penned up behind walls of ice."

"Almost? Almost isn't good enough. Make sure I'm kept informed about any stragglers. I've got something held in reserve for that."

"Ok. Once the last remnants are swept up, then what?"

"I'm not sure. I had planned on being in a much different position when I confronted the leaders of the armada and the rulers of WUSO. For one thing I thought I'd still have my powers and be able to persuade them to leave us alone by offering to lift the curse on their people. Not their ships, mind you. There has to be some price for their scheming, and if I still had my powers losing a third to a half of their navies' ships would a pretty good alternative to being buried under glaciers. Now that's out of the question."

"So we just send them home to bring their Kings? If you're powerless, and can't lift the curse, why should they bother coming? What's to keep them from just saying, 'We're stuck like this forever, she's powerless, we might as well just assassinate her.'? It's not like you're holding anything over their heads."

"I know. I'll need to think about it. In the meantime, there's still that 'almost' to deal with. Get down to the ballroom and let me know if there are any ships that make it past the magical defenses."


In addition to attacking Arendelle's larger ports the WUSO armada allocated a number of ships for attacking coastal communities and even a few smaller ships for creating beachheads in uninhabited inlets. Elsa had bridged these uninhabited inlets with ice to shorten the coast road, and these ice bridges had to be eliminated so the ships could enter the inlets.

Most of the ice bridges destroyed were close enough to protected fishing villages that once a ship had fired three shots at the village or had fired three shots at an ice bridge nearby, all the ships in the protected zone had been surrounded by a wall of ice.

The Ostrythe ship Gannet was assigned an uninhabited inlet that wasn't within range of a protected area. The ice bridge fell after twelve cannon shots. Gannet sailed into the inlet.


The communication terminal linked to Elsa's second beacon hummed. The soldier assigned to monitor the terminals scattered along that stretch of coast moved to respond and got into position. The humming stopped and the face of Lieutenant Antonsen appeared above the terminal box.

"We've got a breach."

"Location?"

"Waterfall Inlet. Two miles down the coast from Beacon E2."

"Severity?"

"One ship. Given the size, perhaps forty men."

The soldier manning the terminal raised his hand, and General Sivertsen hurried over to find out what the problem was. He read the notes the soldier had taken. He shooed the soldier away and sat facing the Lieutenant. "What's up that inlet?"

"Just a waterfall. The fjord walls are too steep for anyone to live there."

"How far will they have to march to get to the next inhabited target?"

"The closest one is us, and they'll have to walk at least three miles. Five if we manage to destroy the ice bridge a mile away from here. The nearest village is six miles the other direction. And they have to get to the road first."

"How many men do you have there?"

"Twenty. But we hold the high ground and won't just have marched five miles."

Anna had overheard the last of this conversation and stood behind Sivertsen, in view of the terminal's eyes. "Hi Lieutenant. I heard your situation. Elsa said she's got something saved up for things like this. Be ready, but hopefully you won't have to deal with this alone."


Anna knock-knock-knockknock-knocked at the door to Elsa's bedroom then opened it and poked her head in. "Elsa? You need to break out that surprise you were saving. There's a breach a couple of miles down the coast from your second beacon."

"How big?"

"Maybe forty soldiers? The closest target is the beacon itself, and there are about twenty of our men there. Can your surprise help?"

"Forty men? Marshmallow and Olaf should have no problem."

Anna came into the room and closed the door behind her. "Marshmallow and Olaf? Your big surprise is two snowmen? Olaf's only attack is a warm hug." Anna considered, then continued. "Ok, Marshmallow is big and intimidating, and the coast road is mostly built on cliffs, but still, isn't it risky? Are they really going to be able to take on forty soldiers by themselves?" Noticing Olaf sitting in a chair in front of Elsa's vanity and Marshmallow in bird form perched on Elsa's nightstand, she said, "No offense intended, guys."

Olaf said, "None taken."

Marshmallow chirped.

"They will do admirably," said Elsa. "And I'm betting they can do it without a single soul getting hurt."

"If you say so," said Anna, although she looked doubtful. "I've got to get back to communications central and let the troops at Beacon Two know help is on its way." She left with a last look at Olaf and Marshmallow, and shook her head.

Elsa got out of bed and opened the window. When she turned back to the room, a large white bird with a carrot for a beak was standing where Olaf had been. She said, "Remember what I taught you. If it all goes wrong anyway, do what you have to to make sure the invaders are turned back. Get going."

As Olaf and Marshmallow leapt through the window and took flight, Elsa watched them, envious and sad that she no longer could experience flight in the same way they could.


Marshmallow and Olaf arrived forty-five minutes after being dispatched by Elsa. They made sure their chosen landing spot was out of sight of both the approaching soldiers and the men at Beacon E2, and transformed back to their accustomed forms.

It's a bit of an understatement to say that the troops from Ostrythe were unpleasantly surprised to find a twenty foot tall snowmen covered in icy spikes waiting for them as they rounded a corner on the road. For one thing, the road was built into the side of a cliff, and, safety rail (made of ice) or not, it was a sheer drop to the ocean below. For another, vicious twenty foot tall snowman. Still, they were brave men and prepared to defend themselves.

Olaf waddled out from behind one of Marshmallow's legs waving his arms. "Hi Guys! Before you do something dumb, why not think a bit first."

When the only response was stares, Olaf rolled his eyes and slowed his speech down. "Ok. What do you see in front of you." He waved twiggy arms to indicate Marshmallow and himself, then pointed at one of the soldiers and said, "You. Answer."

The soldier pointed to himself and mouthed the question, "Me?". Olaf nodded and made encouraging beckoning motions with his hands. The soldier said, "Um… two living snowmen?"

"Right! And what were you all told about Elsa?" Olaf pointed to another soldier. "How about you, this time."

"Ah… that she's dead?"

"And do those things jibe?" Marshmallow rumbled. He pointed to another soldier, who gulped, terrified, completely out of his depth. Being pointed to by Marshmallow was much more disconcerting than being pointed to by Olaf.

At the blank look from the soldier Marshmallow was pointing at, Olaf asked, "Are we being here and Elsa being dead consistent?" He pointed to another soldier, who ventured a tentative, "No?"

"Correct!" said Olaf. "And since we're here, dealing with you, and aren't needed elsewhere, what should your next move be? You, in the back, with the shiny uniform. Rub what you know up against your imagination and see if you can get some sparks."

There was a brief pause as the leader considered his options now that he knew the Ice Queen was alive and powerful. "We surrender."

"Darn right, you do."

"What will be done with us?" asked the leader.

"We're all going to march back to Waterfall Inlet, Marshmallow and I will watch you get back on your ship, and you'll sail away. On your way out, you may notice that the rest of your armada's ships are penned up behind walls of ice. You're the lucky ones. You get to be the bearers of the bad news and deliver an invitation to the rulers of Weselton, Uleway, Sathor, and Ostrythe to come to Arendelle to talk about reparations. Be sure to let them know that the longer they take to get here the shorter Elsa's temper will be."


A/N - Olaf growing large but having little arms is a silly image, until you consider T-rex skeletons. At some point in his immortal future you know he's going to want to try on that look.

I'm sorry about the long delay for this chapter. The summer was busy, life was hectic, and I spent more than a month sick. Many of the distractions that kept me busy are now over, so the wait for the next chapter shouldn't be so long.

Thanks to everyone who commented during this long gap: Brightness Davar, Concolor44, Deliberatee, MrExtraCheese, and Tehb'Ineh.