She remembered, so long ago the memory was more of a distant fog than something concrete, sitting in her father's lap as he pointed up at a map of the world. The countries of the world were embroidered in emerald thread on a sea of blue, their borders picked out in gold filigree. Arendelle itself had been there; so small it barely showed up, but there nonetheless. Planted firmly in the centre of their country had been a pin, and to that pin somebody – most likely some trade minister or secretary – had attached thin lengths of string, leading off to other countries with their own pins. Her father had lifted Elsa's hand and made her follow the strings with her finger to all of the trading partners Arendelle used to bring it things they couldn't make for themselves.
As her finger touched on each one her father spoke of them softly, and little Elsa's mind tried to imagine the things he talked about; the life and vitality that came from France and its vineyards. The dull and grey but steady, dependable machinery of England. The spices and food that came from the flowing bundle of strings that marked the countries along silk road. As her father spoke to her Elsa had painted a magical world for herself, and had sworn she and Anna would go there together, one day.
Finally, attached at the end of one particular string, there had been a small scattering of islands, so small that individually the mapmaker had difficulty picking them out in the green, and some were so thin they were just the gold thread of their borders. The Southern Islands had been a trading partner with Arendelle long before anyone else, and stayed that way mainly due to inertia. More material moved between Arendelle castle and some towns than moved between the two countries.
They have a lot of rocks, and they make up for it with a lot of sons, her father had said with a wry smile.
Elsa stared at the king from the Southern Isles and even in the middle of her ice palace felt a dull heat in her breast. She knew it was anger. Was that it? All of this, surely what had to have been months of work, endless promises and payments and set-ups, for something so base as I want what you have?
She felt the wind flow through the palace, coming down from the top of the mountain, and as she stood there surrounded by scared old princes and the towering walls she had made she felt the anger ebb away, just a little, replaced with…replaced with… replaced with what? She turned away and looked back at the men crawling their way towards her palace. The tower was high, high enough that even with the path Elsa had forged from the valley all the way here, it would take them long breathless minutes to arrive. Good.
A gust blew up around her and caressed her skin, and she imagined she felt something more than just air flow across her body. As a child she had adored the mountain, how white and pure it had looked from the old castle (some part of her had already begun to think of the ancestral castle as old, no longer hers). She had spent long hours sitting there in the corridors that faced it, looking up and humming in the nonsense ways children did. When her power had begun to show, had become so bright and strong it had burst forth and become undeniably real, she had felt like she and it were bound in some way. She had wanted to be like it; pure and untouched and invincible, stronger and better than anyone. She and Anna had changed their lives forever on the mountain, had decided on their lives together on it, been tested and survived on it, had found their true selves on it. And now finally she had become a part of it, had made her real home on it.
She let out a long breath and felt the wind catch around it, carry it back into the ice palace where those small powerless nobles sat worried, torn between wondering what was going on and worried they had come for a coronation and suddenly become hostages, and a few smarter ones knowing what a sham it all was but wondering who would win.
Elsa raised a slim hand, palm up. If she held it correctly, it almost looked like the small armour-clad men were rested on her palm, no bigger than ants. If she closed it, what would happen? She thought about doing it, for one endless second. Was she that kind of person? Was that the kind of queen she really wished to be? She pictured Arendelle, surrounded by ice walls. Impregnable and invincible, but utterly alone and hated. She and Anna would never see the outside world, at least not as welcomed visitors.
Anna. She thought about Anna, her sister and knight and so much more, somewhere down in the town, no doubt fighting for her. No, she couldn't do that to Anna. Even driven to the brink by greedy, grasping men like this, she could never become that person.
She could become close though. After all, an avalanche didn't hate the people it buried. They were just unlucky enough to stand in the way.
Or not heed warning signs.
She swept past the king of the Southern Isles without even sparing him a glance. "Dear guests," she said, the words ringing from the high icicle ceiling. They turned to look up at her and she smiled as she began to speak, putting into her voice every lesson of diplomacy her teachers and farther had ever taught her. "I must apologise for the unrest in my country-"
"The uprisings-" the king tried to interject. She ignored him totally, but was that gust of wind just a little stronger around his skin than it had been a moment before?
"The unrest created by a few groups of interlopers…" her eyes flicked sideways to the king "and possibly encouraged by foreign agents." She met their gaze one by one, stepping towards them. A hand on a shoulder her, a gentle smile there. "I can't apologise enough for the trouble you've been caused, when you all came here in good faith to witness my coronation as queen."
"A queen of…" the king started, but the words almost froze in his throat. Gods, it was cold. Wasn't it cold for anyone else?
She approached the throne and sat upon it. "Even as we speak my sister and fellow regent is reclaiming the peace we were previously enjoying, and we can put all of this unfortunate nonsense behind us." She rested a fist on her cheek nonchalantly, and not a single noble standing before her failed to notice the wisps of frost that travelled across it. "Arendelle has been a friend and partner to you all in the past, and will remain so in the future after the current trouble is dealt with by my sister, once and for all." With that she looked the king of the Southern Isles straight in the eyes. "And I intend to make sure every walks away from my coronation with everything they deserve."
She let the king sputter out more accusations and let the nobles whisper between themselves as she leaned back in her throne. As her clothes met the tall back she imagined herself connected to the mountain, feeling everything that happened across it. She imagined the wind as her fingers brushing through the forests, feeling every tree and branch and touching upon everything. Felt small tiny footsteps patter on her skin as animals moved through it. She felt the struggling of the men crawling up towards her. She concentrated, and felt her power reach out and entwine itself with the mountain. If she wanted to she knew she could snuff out the lives crawling towards her; bury them in snow or make the ice rise up and crush them, or shape the mountain into her own soldiers that would exterminate the Southern Isles with blades of ice.
Instead she raised a hand and made a small and casual, almost lazy gesture in the air. Nobody besides the King saw, and even he was too busy desperately trying to think of his next step to wonder if it meant anything. He would know soon enough, when his prized and oh-so-clever 'rescue party' failed to arrive.
Yes, Elsa/the mountain thought. This she could get used to.
She closed her eyes and concentrated again. Further down the steep slopes she felt something more; she felt fire. Even without looking she felt the town ablaze, but deep within those fires she found what she was searching for: Something so small it barely existed, but shone so brightly she could never miss it, would always be able to find it no matter how dark or confusing the world around her became. Elsa felt the ice – her ice – that entwined Anna's heart, and knew that she would be here soon.
The rest is in your hands, love.