Hello. There will be a real authors note next chapter but just for tonight: This fic is based on a small prompt plus series of ficslets and drawings made by patronustrip (dot tumblr dot com) and her fans. Disney owns Frozen.
There's a moment, before the first pebble falls.
Before the unstoppable force of nature, a thousand tons of ice and snow, majestic and beautiful and terrible, is born and begins its descent.
When the slightest breeze, the smallest breath, the lightest touch, can change the path the avalanche will take. One rock's careless first bounce that will decide whether the mountain will feast on a silent forest not walked in for a hundred years, or on a village twenty miles away that was built with more optimism than common sense.
Nature throws her dice. The small rock, dislodged by the gale-force winds of the peak, picks up speed and flies into the air. It impacts like the first cymbal-clash of an orchestra, its vibrations travelling through the ground and dislodging more, awakening the great white death and pointing it downwards with one word; go. The pebble has chosen.
Tonight it will be blood.
Like a ravenous beast the avalanche descends the flank of the mountain towards the small and insignificant lights of those who dare intrude upon its home.
Most are lucky, asleep from a hard day of chopping wood or herding their flocks or tending their small homes. The avalanches picks them up in their beds and devours them before they can stir, only a few opening bleary eyes at the sound of what had to be a stray wolf or bear too close to the village before the thought is obliterated along with the thinker. Those less fortunate, awake by stress or recklessness, see the true form of the terrible majesty bearing down on them. They die at their windows and porches, the pitch-black emptiness parting in front of their eyes for just one second to reveal the angry white fist that goes into and through them and crushes them into nothing. Those older and who know the sounds of the mountain may already be shouting and pleading, running for the sled dogs at the edge of the village, but they are overtaken and devoured just the same.
The passage of the monster leaves nothing as it swallows up man's small efforts; buildings and tools digested into the earth as easily as flesh and bone. All that remains is a pure field of white as the beast settles back to sleep, the mile-squad of ugly carved stone and wood transformed back into pristine magnificence.
Days later, the braver men of the city go up the mountain looking for survivors of the mountain's wrath. They go slowly and carefully, hunched over themselves and treating every step like a glass floor, in case the wrong noise or wrong step should re-awaken the beast upon them. Like supplicants to a wrathful goddess they crawl to the white field, hoping that somehow she will have missed one or two survivors, hiding in caves or under rocks. Their hope is in vain.
Unlike an invading army there can be no counterattack or retaliation against the mountain. She stands silent, impervious to the wails of the relatives and friends of her victims. For those left behind there is no comfort, no lesson learned to help the next village survive her wrath. There was nothing that could have been done or measures that could have been taken. The village had simply lost their gamble. They had sat down to play at nature's table, and by inches and degrees they had forgotten they had been playing at all, until one day she had simply reached out and cut them down with one message:
You are nothing to me. If you go I will not stop you. But if you stay I will kill you on a whim, and not all your intelligence or strength will pause me one moment.
All decided on the first bounce of one pebble at the summit of the mountain, unseen and ignored by all.
All but one.
"Oh my god…"
The girl doesn't hear the gasp of the maid beside her as the single bolt of lightning illuminates the world outside the castle. Her eyes are locked on the window, staring into the night past the castle's fires and guard posts, out towards the north mountain. She doesn't need to hear the roar of the avalanche, or need light to watch as it travels down the slopes. She can feel its movement in her bones, the same way she can feel the village in its path as pinpricks on her flesh. On the mountain's flesh. She drops her doll and steps closer to the window, pressing her hands against the glass to try and feel better what's happening out there. For a moment she sees her own eyes on the glass, a gangly blue-eyed girl barely three years old, her outline lost inside the huge white behemoth that looms over the town. For one moment the reflection of her eyes is imposed on the mountain and she imagines it is staring back at her.
Then the moment is lost as simultaneously rough hands grab her by the shoulder and pull her away from the cold glass, and a scream – much louder than the shock of the servant girl – echoes through the castle corridors.
A huge red face descends to stare at her and it speaks with the small anger that only a mixture of exasperation, love and fatigue can manage. "My lady please, what have I told you about wandering the castle?"
The young princess looks at the old servant. "N't t'night," she mutters, her eyes glancing back at the mountain beyond the glass. By tomorrow morning it will be silent, and the men will head out to recover the bodies and lament the dead. Tonight though Princess Elsa of Arendelle looks up at the mountain, and although she hasn't been taught the words or the concepts yet she knows that the mountain is a power impossible to control or shackle and all she wants to do – more than she wants to go to bed or run to her mother – is watch it.
"Not any night at all young lady, but especially not tonight," the old servant says, trying to get back the princess's wandering attention. He grabs her hand and drags her away as roughly as he dares, eager to get the young girl – princess – back into her bed and then hurry to the queen's side.
Elsa tries to wrench her hand from the man's grasp, uselessly of course. "Wanna stay!" She looks up at him with giant blue eyes. "'M not tired," she lies.
Kai pauses, torn between orders from the king to watch over the birth and from the queen to make sure little Elsa was safe. He came because even though the gap between royalty and chief usher was greater than heaven and earth, he could look into those small blue eyes and see a daughter he would never have. He had gone to find her even though nothing inside the castle could possibly with the little princess harm.
Not surprised she can't sleep tonight, with all the noise and bustle. "Little princesses should be in bed at this time of night," he chides his young ward.
But a three year-old princess is still a three year-old. "Don't wanna," Elsa replies, and pouts. She knows something important is happening in the castle. Knows she'll have a little brother or sister to play with soon – she wants a brother so she can finally have a boy she can boss around and tell what to do like Kai tells her – and that even though the sounds mommy makes scare her, it will be over soon, and princesses are brave. She snuck out of her room to try and get to the library where the picture-books were kept while everyone was busy with mommy, but had stopped when she had passed through the outer north corridors with their floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and had seen the storm.
And beyond it, the mountain.
Kai glances over at the maid, stood waiting for orders like the dozens of others like her at every corner of the castle, ready at a word to gather whatever was needed for a difficult birth. He catches her eye and then gestures down at the crown princess. "Watch her." The maid nods, no less immune to the charms of a cute young toddler than anyone. He lets go of Elsa's hand and kneels down until they're almost at eye level. "Now Elsa, you must be good tonight, understand?" Elsa nods her head so fast she's a blur. "I need to go be with your mother while she…er…makes your new family. So you listen to…"
"Ida," the maid says.
"Listen to Ida and be a good girl, understood?"
"Yes," Elsa mutters into her doll.
"What are you going to be Elsa?"
"A good girl," she replies happily, smiling and giggling as Kai lets go of her hand. Elsa knows a good girl does what people tell her to do, and she walks over to the – to her one of many interchangeable – maid and offers up a hand. Above her head in the world of adults Kai gives a thankful nod that Ida returns, then without another word the old servant stalks from the candlelit corridor back to the east wing, where the king paces worriedly, and older and wiser women scuttle about the queen doing what they can.
The maid leans down as Kai did. "So little El- your majesty, what do you want to do? A midnight snack?"
The library and its picture books have been long forgotten now, and Elsa points back to the centre of the corridor. "Want to watch," she says clearly.
The maid is young but not stupid – nobody employed by the royal family was anything other than superbly qualified – and for a half-second she pauses as she hears something in the little princesses' voice. Something a little bit older than a toddler who wants a hug or food or a toy. It sounds less like want and more like need.
She brushes it aside. The princess is only three.
Instead she smiles and nods. "Alright, but only for a little while, okay?"
Elsa nods happily. "Okay!"
Together the maid and the princess stare out at the night beyond, the mountain now quieter. The maid looks out and wonders how bad it was (it was bad) and whether tomorrow she will be called on with the rest of the downstairs staff to prepare burial shawls (she will).
Two princesses look out of the window with her.
One princess, the good little princess that Kai and Ida and her mother and her father see, looks out and sees the pretty white snow-covered mountain wrapped in night's velvet. She wants to go up there, trample across its icy slopes and lie back and make snow angels. She wants to go up there with her new baby brother and sled down it and have snowball fights on it and make snow angels together (hers the best of course) and a thousand other things that little girls do when they have not a worry in the world and a glorious future waiting for them.
The other princess stares out through the same eyes, the princess neither Kai nor Ida, her mother nor father, nor has anyone else ever looked deep enough to see. This princess stares at the mountain and sees the unstoppable fury of the avalanche, and the unyielding pressure of the ice. The second princess sees the wind howling at the peak, snow trailing from it like a glorious cloak of freezing death, and the thousands of tons of rocky core as a castle stronger than anything Arendelle or the world could ever hope to build. The second princess looks at the mountain and sees a throne better than any other in the world.
To blame them would be unfair, because the young lady who they watch over is unlike anyone who has ever lived, and there was no way in creation they could have known how important the choice to stay or go would be. Maybe if Kai or Ida had led her away from the window it could have been prevented, the thoughts and feelings a three year-old shouldn't have buried away safely, deep under the large joys and small sorrows that would come from growing up safe and loved. She would follow the trail blazed by a thousand princesses before her, a life of comfort, safety and – if she were lucky - love. She would grow up and have children and a castle of her own. The strange thoughts of the mountain would be forgotten forever, papered over with a life well-lived. Maybe not an exceptional life, but a happy one.
But they do not lead her away. The maid and her charge spend the night in that corridor, looking out over the kingdom towards the north mountain, and in those hours the seed of fascination is planted, to begin the long and slow bloom to obsession.
The first pebble has fallen, although none have heard it or will suspect it for many years.
As elsewhere in the castle her mother screams one last time and her little sister is born, Elsa of Arendelle stares up at the mountain and sees her goddess, and she is lost to it forever.