Rain pelted the windows and furiously drained in the cast iron gutters. Leaves blew in all directions and pelted the sides of the castle, slapping the building and creating a sensation of drowning. Elsa stared out of the window at the storm, and worried over its ominous meaning as the hours passed, refusing to let up. She glanced up at the swaying branches of a nearby tree, imagining that she could hear the creaking of its bark as they wavered back and forth.
The Queen of Arendelle glanced at the dying flames in her fireplace, and quickly moved to throw more pieces of wood on the burning embers. She returned to her desk, making the decision to try to continue work, but as she raised her pen a flare of lightening flashed in the room, and the subsequent thunder had her moving to her window again.
Elsa smiled to herself and counted off the seconds. "One…two…three…four… five…"
The doors to her study suddenly crashed open and an out-of-breath Anna pressed herself against one of them, her eyes wide. "Did you hear that? Yikes."
Elsa turned from the window and smiled warmly at her sister. "Five."
Anna made the pretense of straightening out her skirt. "That long? Remind me to run next time."
The Queen held out her hand and Anna took it. "Still afraid of storms, Anna."
The princess huffed. "Me? Not really, I just came to make sure you were okay?"
"I see." Elsa turned to the window again. "This is the first major storm of the season. I can't believe how violent it is."
Anna glanced at her sister before her attention was taken by the swirling storm outside. "Yes, and on the full moon, too."
The Queen was taken aback. "Are you sure?"
A large branch was bent back at a particularly large gust of wind and it snapped like a twig. Both the Queen and the Princess watched as the branch fell on a marble statue in the garden below, sending it crashing to the grass. It splintered into many pieces.
Queen Elsa's mouth dropped slightly as another flash of lightening lit up room. She pulled Anna a little closer to herself, and let out a shaky breath. "My, my. We are in for a jarring night, aren't we?"
Anna turned towards her sister. "What is it? You've never been afraid of the rain before?"
Elsa continued to stare at the storm outside and after a few moments felt a stirring within herself. As if something inside her suddenly clicked into place, and the feeling left her a little confused. She met Anna's frank stare. "Oh, I'm not afraid, Anna. But it almost feels like before. You know, before everything in Arendelle returned to normal—when I caused that horrible winter."
"You don't think you caused this storm, do you, Elsa?"
"That I caused this weather? No, no. That's not what I meant. But I feel like I'm one with the storm. Like I know it's intent—what it portends for us all—a foreshadowing, so to speak." Elsa seemed to struggle somewhat, and a shadow passed over her pale features. But the moment ended as soon as it began, and the shadow lifted. She took a deep breath and shook her head, chuckling. "Listen to me, will you? I sound like my old nanny."
Anna's smile was tentative, and then she saw how Elsa chuckled while shaking her head. The lighter mood was infectious, and soon she was grinning as well. "Haha! It was a valiant effort, Elsa, but it didn't work. I'm not scared."
The Queen laughed. "I would certainly hope so, Anna. I wasn't trying to frighten you." She led her sister over to the large fireplace and sat her down on one of the over-stuffed chairs, much like a parent does with a young child. "There. Comfy?"
Anna adored the attention, craved for it. Although things were still far from complete normalcy, Elsa was doing a lot better since the snow incident, and devoted much of her time to making sure that her sister knew that she was loved—a far cry from her icy past—and the princess let her dote.
She looked up as Elsa brought over a blanket and wrapped it about her shoulders. "Thank you, Elsa."
The Queen smiled and then returned to her desk. "I can't believe how much paperwork there is—running a Kingdom. Although I'm glad father prepared me for it."
Anna lounged lazily in the chair. "How did he do that?" She was curious as Elsa rarely talked about their parents.
"My tutors saw that I read law books and kept up on all the royal decrees. It was quite a chore, believe me."
"Oh, I do. Funny, I didn't have many tutors, only a few; and they never made me read books I didn't want to."
"You weren't raised to be a Queen." As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them. "I'm sorry, but that didn't come out as I planned."
Anna merely nodded. "Oh, I already know that. Just as I'm sure you didn't learn the violin or harpsichord—or learn how to ride a horse."
Elsa offered her sister a lopsided grin. "Touché, princess. Legal journals were my friends growing up—even after, well, you know."
Anna looked over to where her sister sat at the large desk that had once belonged to their father. She looked small in the high-back chair, pen in hand, and wearing a noticeable frown. "You work too hard."
The Queen leaned over to a small table near the desk and uncorked a small decanter. "Brandy, Anna?"
The princess shook her head. "Not before dinner, Elsa."
"This was father's favourite."
Anna turned her head and studied her sister. "How do you know?"
"There were quite a few times when he would come to my rooms to check on my lessons smelling just like this." Elsa downed the libation in one swift move. "It makes me mellow and whets my appetite."
Anna snorted. "I bet it does. How much longer until supper?"
Elsa scribbled in a ledger as she poured another portion of the brandy. "It ought to be ready within the half-hour."
The light in the room began to dim as night approached. So Elsa stood and lit all the candles in the room. They cast an eerie light about them and their luminosity begged at Elsa. She returned to her desk and tried to discern what was happening with her and around her. It almost felt like an old memory—one deep down inside that required a thorough dusting and cleansing. What can't I remember? What is it about this storm, on this day, at this time?
Anna watched Elsa out of the corner of her eye and noted how she sat back in the chair while still remaining somewhat rigid in her movements. The princess threw off the blanket and walked over to her sister's desk, sitting down in one of the two chairs in front of it. She watched Elsa work for a few minutes before speaking. "You're like him, you know."
"Like who?" Elsa didn't raise her head and continued to write.
The Queen's pen stopped in mid-motion, and she let out a small sigh. "It is still difficult for me to talk about them." She eyed her sister for a few moments and realized that Anna meant no harm by the observation. Anna was just being… Anna.
"How am I like him?"
"You brood, just like him. Sometimes it takes a lot just to make you smile. Oh, I don't know, Elsa. But you remind me of him. More so with each passing day."
Elsa smiled and laid her pen on the table. "I miss them so much."
At that moment they both heard the sound of a bell being wrung in the hallway; Anna's stomach growled at the sound. Elsa laughed and stood, offering her arm to her younger sister.
"Shall we to dinner, princess?"
Anna snorted again before giggling. "Let's go, I'm starving."
As they walked out of the room Elsa peered over her shoulder at the storm again. There was just something about it that disturbed her, and a queer sense of foreboding stole over her heart.
The castle dining hall was huge and ominous and was only now illuminated by the roar of two fireplaces and the strategic placement of ornate candelabras on the rather large rectangular table in the center of the room. Liveried footmen stood about the room, ever ready to assist the Queen and the Princess should they require attention.
Elsa sat with her back against her chair, her plate of dinner had yet to be touched, and watched with amusement as her baby sister piled forkful after forkful into her mouth. "You really should slow down, you know. No one is going to steal your meal from you."
The princess huffed, then replied, "Watch it, sister. I have a mind to—" Her words were cut of short by a rather loud peel of thunder, one so close that is rattled the windows. "Oh, my, could this storm get any worse?"
"Perhaps it will," Elsa deadpanned. She picked at her food, and finally forked a small portion into her mouth. "Too much lemon, I think."
"The cod—the chefs made the sauce too lemony."
A bright flash of lightning halted Anna's reply, and she dropped her fork onto her plate. "It's right over us—"
The windows shook again and Elsa knew by instinct that the worst of the storm had yet to come, but she kept that observation to herself. She tilted her head. "Why isn't Kristoff joining us for dinner? He isn't out in this weather, is he?"
"Well, I think he's in the stables. I asked him to come to dinner and he, once again, refused—politely, of course. I just think he doesn't feel comfortable indoors."
The Queen pondered that for a moment. "He told you he doesn't?"
"Well, not in so many words. You know him, always skirting around the truth, unable to speak his mind these days."
Elsa regarded her younger sibling as a low hanging branch began to lightly tap upon the window. "Do you think he's trying to tell you something, and doesn't want to hurt your feelings about it?"
Anna nodded. "Do you think he's losing interest in me?"
"No, he loves you, Anna. But I don't think he's comfortable with a domestic life. He still sleeps in the stables, doesn't he?"
Anna sat back in her chair. "That one night in my bed was disastrous." Her eyes widened at the deep blush on her sister's face. "No, not like that. I swear, Elsa, that brain of your likes to think dirty thoughts."
"No, I don't," Elsa squeaked. She began to eat in earnest, ignoring the peels of laughter pouring forth from her sister. After awhile she looked up to see Anna grinning at her. "What, now?"
"You're adorable, do you know that?"
Elsa blushed again and put down her fork. "I got the brains, remember? You, my dear sister, inherited our mother's good looks."
The princess felt the compliment keenly, and reached over the expanse between them to grasp Elsa's hand. "Oh, Elsa, don't ever belittle yourself like that again. You are beautiful."
Before the Queen could reply another loud clap of thunder roared through the dining hall, rattling hard, and the branch that was slapping the window hit hard enough to crack it. Elsa grabbed Anna's hand harder, fear stealing its way deep into her bones.
The footmen exchanged glances before one of them approached the Queen and bowed. "May I be of help, Your Majesty?"
The Queen looked up and disengaged her hand from Anna's. "This is going to sound crazy, but someone needs to go outside and close the storm shutters." Elsa silently cursed herself for not thinking about it earlier, before the storm blustered to its current intensity.
The footman wavered slightly. "To whom shall I deliver this message, my Lady?"
"To Master Kai, of course. Tell him to assemble a crew of five, no more. I don't want to impose upon too many to brave this terrible weather."
"As you wish, Your Majesty."
Elsa stood and moved to the window, watching as tufts of leaves were littered about by the harsh winds and pelting rain. The truth of the matter was that she did not want to send anyone out in the hostile storm, but prudence called for such an action. Just as she was about to say something to Anna that inner feeling crept up again; the one that told her that she should be remembering something. But for the life of her nothing came to the forefront of her mind. Nothing coalesced into certitude, as she needed it to, and a deep frustration percolated upwards, souring her thoughts.
Her appetite gone, Elsa turned back towards her sister. "I'll be in my room if you need me, Anna."
"Wait, what? Elsa you don't have to go—"
But the Queen was gone, already out of the dining hall, on her way to her room.
Despite what Anna believed, Kristoff wasn't in the stables as she thought he would be, but was sitting with a few other men in the large kitchen of the castle. He was huddled around the fire with a tankard of beer and plate of food on his lap.
An under butler, Anders, picked up a plate of food and sat next to the mountain man. "You are Kristoff, are you not?"
Kristoff turned his head as he downed a large portion of the beer. "Yeah, should I know you?"
Anders frowned. "No, but its nice to finally meet you. I hear the princess talking about you all the time."
The mountain man eyed the butler. Anna talked about him? He wondered how and why Anna would find herself mentioning him to other people, let alone the staff members. He considered his life private, especially where it concerned his relationship—or lack thereof—with the princess.
It was true that their romance was waning. Not because they were not attracted to each other. They were, but he just wasn't, and never would be, part of the gentry into which the Princess was raised. They both knew it. She had invited him to sleep with her in the finest of silks, and he ended up with a blanket on floor, so unused was he to a bed, and if the truth be told, he preferred the barn to a bedroom. He was a man very much a part of the land in which he lived, and he liked his calloused hands, because they reminded him of the hard work he loved to do.
Kristoff was about to say something to Anders when Kai entered the kitchens through the service door, four rugged looking men followed him. He immediately went to the mountain man. "Kristoff, I was told you were here. Can I impose upon you to help us with an immediate need?"
Kristoff took a large bite of food before setting his plate aside. "Impose away, Master Kai."
Anna silently walked to the conservatoire by herself, a bit restless, but determined not to bother Elsa if she did not want to be disturbed. It did appear from their parting words that the Queen was bothered by something that she did not want to talk about. The more Anna thought about it, the sadder she became.
It was the first time since the Great Thaw that the Queen retreated into herself, without being willing at least to talk somewhat about what was bothering her. The princess stopped at the door to the portrait room, tempted to fall back into her old habit of conversing with the artwork inside. It helped her to sort out in her own mind what verities needed to be known, what actions to take, and how to react properly to her world.
Anna paused and smiled to herself, realizing , and not for the first time, that she was more than capable of sorting out her own problems; had been doing it for years. She bypassed the portrait room and walked the few yards to the music room, where her violin and harpsichord were waiting.
The room had already been prepared for her arrival and Anna thought that Elsa might have mentioned something to a passing servant as she made her way over to room. A fire was already lit in the giant fireplace and sheet music was already set up on her harpsichord. Anna went over to examine it and saw it was the Bach that she so loved. You did this, didn't you, Elsa. If not the Queen then certainly Gerda. They were the only two who knew of her obsession with the Bach.
Anna reached out and glided her hand over the fine instrument, imported from France for her twelfth birthday. She sat down on the bench and gently ran her fingers over the keys, remembering them, and the beautiful music they helped her to produce. She looked at the sheet music and ignored the first movement, wanting to concentrate on the second, an Adagio e piano sempre, and positioned her hands over the right keys to order to begin.
The solo helped her to relax, although she had to admit that she missed her younger days when she would play with the children of Arendelle's nobility. Elsa was noticeably absent from these performances and Anna realized she must have least heard the music from her isolated bedroom. She wondered if Elsa longed to come to her sessions and watch her play, and now that she was thinking about it, the Queen still had yet to observe her.
Anna stopped and rested her hands on her lap, wishing that her big sister was with her now. What did Elsa do at times like this, to drive away the melancholy? Anna stood and preceded to make her way to the kitchen in the hopes of finding some freshly made chocolate cake.
Elsa looked out of her window as the storm seemed to intensify. It was dark, but she thought she could hear tree branches thrashing about. After another giant gust of wind she definitely heard the sound of marble crashing to the ground again. She backed away from the fury outside until the back of her knees hit her bed, and she sat back with a small thud. The flickering candlelight, which usually helped to bring her comfort, now caused an immense amount of anxiety, and she whimpered.
Even the roaring fire in her fireplace failed to soothe her tattered nerves. What am I missing? There is something very wrong here…
The Queen didn't know if it was something she had forgotten or if there was something that she had to know. There was just something about this night and the storm outside that was so wrong. She even wondered if the word "wrong" was fitting the situation. It wasn't that there was something wrong, but that there was something about to happen.
Elsa drew in a sharp breath and clutched at the cloak around her shoulders. The certainty she felt with that new knowledge frightened her to the core, and she had to struggle against the desire to scream as a particularly large branch crashed through her bedroom window and landed on her vanity, breaking several bottles of perfumes. At that precise moment her clock struck midnight and she jumped up from her bed.
But as she turned to the door an excruciating pain hit her suddenly, forcing her onto her knees. It was everywhere, all over her body—in her hands and feet—even her head. It was a throbbing, unbearable pain, and Elsa felt like she was being consumed by fire. She clutched at her cloak and tore it off, as it weight only added to the agony.
Elsa fell to her hands as the pain seemed to concentrate on her upper back and the top of her head. She blindly tore at dress; it burned where it touched her skin, and she writhed as spasms wracked her entire body.
The Queen fell to the floor and grabbed at her head. Perhaps it was because of the throbbing torture, but she could have sworn that she felt two pointy protrusions on her head that were not there before. But as soon as the thought entered her mind she felt a pulling at her back that was so painful that she blacked out temporarily.
The fire in Queen Elsa's fireplace had dwindled to mere coals, and the candles had burned down considerably. Her room was quiet except for the rain that continued to whip against her window.
Something moved on the floor, tilting its head to one side and letting out a small moan. It once had clothes on, but those lay in tatters on the floor, ripped to shreds. It rolled onto its stomach. Wings that had been trapped underneath it now fluttered slightly and stretched out, expanding outward and wrapping the creature beneath them in darkness.
It lifted its head and looked up, sniffing at the air, a low growl emanating from its parched throat. When it tried to stand it faltered slightly, being unused to the weight of the new wings on its back, but after a few tries it finally made it to its feet. The creature stretched its wings and let out another growl. It turned around slowly until a full-length mirror near the doorway to the walk-in closet captured its attention. It approached it slowly, peering uneasily at its own image.
Somewhere in that dark creature a human being still stirred, even if only for the tiniest of moments, and that part of the creature that was still Elsa gazed into the mirror, horrified at what she saw.
Her body was morphed into something that was wicked. Two horns now protruded from the top of her head and twisted into themselves in a mockery of goat horns.
Scraps of clothing still clung to her body, held up by threads, but they didn't hide what her skin had become. It was still pale but now had scales on it in some places—down her arms, and from her thighs down her legs to what was once her feet. Elsa gasped, horrified, pain-ridden and spread her dark wings until they stretched as far as they could go. It flapped the wings experimentally, the momentum of the move almost lifting her into the air. The last shreds of clothing fell and the creature's eyes went wide at the new appendage between its legs; thick and long, pulsing with need. Elsa gaged at the sight, spewing spit and thick phlegm all over the mirror. She lifted her head and let out a grief-stricken roar, unable to form words.
It was Elsa and it was not, and whatever she had become was now deeply attracted to the pounding storm outside. It sniffed again but this time at the broken window and the rain. Whatever was left of Elsa whimpered when it reached out through the broken glass to capture the water in its palm. It brought the hand to its mouth and lapped at the water like an animal.
It seemed as if the entire castle heard that roar, and some guards quickly attached their bayonets to their rifles, and ran in the direction of that terrible sound.
Anna was almost to her room when a horrible scream emanated from the Queen's bedroom. "Elsa!" She ran to the door and flung it open, only to catch sight of something standing at the Queen's window. It turned its head for a moment before crashing through the broken window into the stormy night.
Anna screamed at the sight. The creature almost looked human; in fact, if she didn't know any better… Anna looked about the room in shock and was just about to leave when four guards burst into the room. Anna screamed again until she saw that they were men.
"My Princess, where is the Queen?" A guard gently took hold of the Princess by her shoulders and turned her around to face him. "Princess Anna?"
Anna looked to the broken window and swallowed hard. "I don't know…" She batted the man's hands off her. "Search the entire castle now and find Queen Elsa. Come on, guys, now!"
As the guards ran from the room Anna whirled again to the open window. "Oh, Elsa…"