Disclaimer: I don't own Frozen.
A blowing rain lashed Anna's face as she spurred her horse across the swollen stream. She tugged her hood closer around her face and muttered curses to the weather. Her saddle slipped to and fro on her horse's soggy hide, the beast as soaked and grumpy as its rider. A gust of wind sent wet leaves flapping around them like a flock of dead birds.
Anna didn't know how long she'd slept, but judging from the blackened sky and the ache in her stomach, it must have been a while. Her father would be sitting near the fire in the dining hall sipping mulled wine and entertaining the dignitary she was supposed to be meeting tonight.
Great. Juuuuust great. Simply fabulous. This is exactly how I needed my awful week to end. Thank you, Odin, for ensuring I will get another disappointed glare and demeaning lecture and gods know—well, you know, I guess—what else. Anna sighed. Could this day possibly get any worse?
Anna tugged the reins towards a less steep path. She had no interest in slipping down a hill and breaking her leg. It was a longer route, and not one she often used, but she was in no rush to get home. Not anymore. Her father would be equally furious if she returned now or an hour later.
The trees grew thicker and taller, the narrow paths between them like nature's maze. Fresh mud caked over their gnarled roots and sucked her steed's tired steps until the horse halted.
"Easy there, Sitron." Anna spoke softly and patted Sitron's neck. "You can do it. Just a little farther. We're almost there. I promise." His trembling chest heaved between her thighs. "I know you're tired, big guy, but I'll have a big bushel of apples for you as soon as we get home, okay?"
Anna tapped her heels to his ribs, and Sitron trudged forward. She smiled and rubbed his sopping mane as she squinted rain out of her eyes. A blurry smudge focused into a small slope that looked like a path to higher ground. There we go!
Anna clicked her tongue and encouraged her steed towards it. They were almost out of the mud when Sitron stopped again. His ears snapped to attention.
Anna groaned. "Please, please, please, don't do this to me, Sitron. Not now. Every minute I'm late is another minute my father is investing into my slow and painful punishment." Anna's voice was a drowned whisper under the howling wind. "Pretty please cooperate with me? A clean road home is literally right there."
Sitron didn't move.
Teal orbs rolled. "Fine. Be that way." Anna tossed her leg over his saddle and squelched knee-deep in the mud. The muck oozed between her toes, and she squirmed with a shiver. "Ugh. This is so gross…" She took hold of the reins and led him forward. "You're such a stinker, you know that? The things I do for you—"
The reins pulled taut and yanked Anna's shoulder at a painful angle. She turned on Sitron and nearly growled when the damn horse anxiously pawed the sodden earth and remained as steadfast as a defiant boulder.
"Please don't make this difficult, Sitron." Anna yanked the slick reins, but Sitron dug in his hooves and shook his head like a mule. "Why. Are. You. Fighting. Me!" Anna grunted. Their tug-of-war made her lean so far back for leverage that she was nearly parallel to the ground.
Anna had won only a few inches of ground when Sitron threw his head back and neighed like Anna was dragging him to a slaughterhouse. He chomped his bridle and desperately struggled to free himself.
"Come on, ya big baby—Ah!"
Sitron screamed and reared back. He tossed Anna into the mud with an undignified 'splash' before he raced away.
Anna sat up and spat mud from her mouth. "Wait! No, no, no, no! Come back!"
Sitron vanished between the trees. Anna's arm plopped into the mud. She blew her copper bangs out of her face, and she groaned when they slapped against her skull and stuck there. Her tongue rolled around the gritty mud in her mouth as she glared at the stars and the gods that sat among them. "Y'know, when I asked if this day could get any worse, that a rhetorical question! Not a challenge! But gee, thanks for letting me know you're watching me, I guess! And your welcome, by the way, for this evening's sick entertainment! Tune in later to see Act 687 for the thrilling conclusion to whatever catastrophe you'll send my way next!"
Anna cursed and grumbled. But while this turn of events royal sucked, it wasn't the worst. She knew every rock and tree and bend in the forest like the back of her hand. It was her sanctuary. She often came out here to get away from her duties, if not for just a little while, so it wouldn't be impossible for her to find her way home.
But the forest was a different world at night. It felt less like a sanctuary and more like something the saints had to bless at the witching hour. The trees, so much taller without the added height from Sitron, leered over Anna like giant shadows, their knotted faces sneering down at her and their clawed branches reaching out to grab her.
Anna scrambled to her feet. She tried and failed to suppress a shiver when a glop of mud slid down the back of her once green dress. Her wet wool cloak clung to her sodden and itching, and her hood fell back off her head, filled with mud. "O-Okay…," she murmured into the wind. A fresh wave of rain blinded her.
Anna gathered up her mud-caked skirts and trudged up the slope. Her steps were high and awkward from having to lift her knees to her chest at every step. More than once she lost her footing and plopped into the mud.
A snarl from behind her made Anna stop dead in her tracks. Her heart leapt into her throat. Kristoff had always warned her that a stray wolf or bear would do her in. But oh nooo, gods forbid I ever listen to my knight.
Anna scrambled and slipped on the water-heavy grass until she reached the top of the hill. She was about to continue her getaway when the snarl from behind her doubled itself and jumped in front of her. Then tripled itself beside her. Then quadrupled from behind. Then chorused into a dozen from the front…
Anna spun in a circle. The wind howled about her, and her short breaths became sporadic. The snarls were coming from everywhere. She was surrounded.
No. It's just the wind. It's playing tricks on me. It's just the wind—
A roar-like scream nearly made Anna jump out of her skin. Screaming so loud that her own ears rang, Anna dove to the ground and covered her head. A thousand prayers read off in her mind in the seconds before whatever was stalking her came crashing through the trees to rip her into fleshy shreds.
After a few seconds, Anna stilled. She tapped her shoulders to make sure her head was still attached before she mustered the courage to open her eyes. She listened for her carnivorous pursuers, but all she heard was the throbbing thump of her pulse pounding in her ears.
The wind died down to a small gust. The sounds and snarls died with it.
Anna shakily got to her feet. When still there was silence, she laughed. It was a small, nervous sound that morphed into a full-belly laugh that would make any man question her sanity.
"That's it! I've finally lost it!" She turned and continued onward, not caring anymore about the mud caking her body. "And here I thought my sanity would last me another year or so—"
The scream echoed through the black canopies again, this time accompanied by a chorus of growls so animalistic that it was impossible to mistake them for a heavy wind.
Is…Is someone being attacked?!
The realization kicked Anna in the face. She was too busy being a coward to listen to what she was hearing. What if someone needed help? What if they were hurt? They're too far from the castle for anyone to hear them—
Well, Anna was here.
I have to help them.
But what would she do? What could she do? Hell, who was she kidding. She would probably end up helping them get killed.
She should ignore it. Just ignore it and go home.
…But then the scream came again, and the note of pain in its tenor twisted Anna's stomach to the point she thought she'd be sick.
What are you doing?! Anna yelled at herself as her legs pelted her towards the scream.
It took a few minutes running in circles until Anna pinpointed where the sound was coming from. It wasn't too far from where she lost Sitron.
Anna climbed another slope into a cluster of high bushes and pines. She shivered when the next wind that hit her was cold, and for a second she forgot it was summer. The growls and human—female, Anna realized—yelps of pain were coming from just beyond the bushes.
Anna crouched in the bushes. She ignored the pointed leaves snagging her skin and thanked the gods that she was downwind so her scent would be masked. It was a small mercy from those divine bastards, but she'd take it.
Snarls and struggles and splashes in the mud lay just before her. With her curiosity now overriding her fear, Anna dared to turn her head centimeters at a time until she was looking around the bush.
The first thing Anna noticed was the ice. Thin skins of frost and thick slabs of ice clung to every surface and consumed the forest in otherworldly uniformity. It moved—crawling over every branch, leaf, bush, tree trunk, and blade of grass like a living organism. A cold chime—high-pitched yet soft—beckoned it to march onward like the pulses from some unseen heart, sharp fingers of frost like veins weaving into the dirt and thick arms of ice like arteries wrapping around the trees.
Anna released a shaky breath and was only half-surprised when it came out as a white puff.
"Ahhhh!" A figure struggled in frozen mud at the center of the icy clearing. They flicked their wrist, and the cold chime and frozen fractals materialized an ice dagger in their hand. The figure stabbed it into their ankle. The piercing screech of ice on unyielding metal made Anna cringe. When the dagger snapped on the second strike, a wolf-like growl tore from the figure's throat, and they threw aside the now broken tool.
She didn't even breath until her mind reassessed her current reality and got her motor functions back into working order.
Anna, of course, tried to be scared once she realized she was not dreaming and that there was actual, real-life, non-fiction, wholly authentic magic happening before her eyes. That was, after all, the normal reaction.
So naturally, Anna stifled a giggle and jumped a bit when butterflies paraded her stomach. She couldn't help it. It was like she was watching a scene from one of the tales Gerda told her in her girlhood. The ice pulsed in parallel to the mysterious person's movements, sudden jagged spurts erupting when they growled or threw something. It was as if it were an extension of their being—like they and the ice were the same living force.
And the sounds they made.
They must be a god who decided to take on human flesh. It was the only logical...well, possible explanation. Gerda told her many stories of Odin taking on animal and human form while on Earth or of Loki shifting into a hawk to aid his travels. Maybe this one changed from animal to human and forgot which one it was?
The figure grunted and turned, and Anna a got a clear view of their profile. They were a woman, though she was caked in so much mud that the only indication of her gender was the slope of her breasts under her tattered clothes and the octave of her earlier screams. Her long, loose hair stuck down her back, slick with mud and knotted with foliage.
The woman bared her teeth and growled. The guttural sound murdered the butterflies in Anna's stomach and twisted their bodies into a cold knot. It grew into a deep bass snarl whose primal threat ground through Anna's ears like crushed stones and made her skin crawl with the instinctive urge to get the hell away from there.
That...That sound was far too terrifying to come from an animal. Disguised god or not, an animal can only behave within the realm of its natural abilities.
This was a beast all to its own caliber.
The woman tried and failed to pry open the bands of metal ensnaring her ankle. Her hands faintly glowed an unnatural blue, and a chiming hum filled the air as frost twisted around the metal.
Is that a...a game trap?
Anna would have laughed if she didn't already know the supposed woman could kill her with little trouble, even if she was immobilized. It was strangely fitting for a person acting so animal-like to be caught like one.
The woman released the metal with a frustrated roar and rubbed her sore palms. She scooted closer to the trap and tenderly lifted her snared foot, revealing the short chain anchoring it to a weight buried in the ground. She grabbed the chain with both hands, took a deep breath, and pulled until the chain groaned.
"Come on...," Anna found herself whispering. She couldn't help but empathize with the woman…deadly creature…thing. The trap was meant for some common game, but she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Looks like we have that in common.
Anna felt her hope for the woman's freedom falter as the woman grew desperate. She yanked the chain as hard as she could though her efforts yielded nothing. It wasn't long until her muddied hands lost their grip, and she fell back with a yelp when she jarred her ankle.
Rain continued to pelt around them. The frost cracked and reformed after every drop of warm rain.
The woman gritted her teeth and clenched her hands into fists. She howled in anger—and what almost sounded like grief—and flung her arm to the side, palm glowing. A thick wave of jagged ice consumed the trees like a frozen ocean wave breaking on a boulder.
When her furious pants subsided into angry wheezes, the woman's outstretched arm plopped into the mud. Her shoulders slumped, and her chin fell to her chest. A keening whine like a beaten animal gritted past her clenched teeth before choking into a whimper.
Anna would have sworn she was crying had the rain not made it hard to tell. The woman looked like she was resigning herself to death—as if she were an exhausted hare waiting for whoever set its trap to put it out of its misery.
Well, one look at the winter wonderland of horror she made and nobody would hesitate to kill her…
A light snow began to fall.
The woman's grief sapped into Anna like water into a bleached sponge. Her skin grew too tight, and the woman's utter defeat constricted Anna's chest like an iron maiden and forced the air from her lungs.
She can't just...give up.
Anna shuffled her sleeping feet. The static in her toes temporarily relieved her from her empathy. She knew she should be afraid of the woman. She was an abomination to nature, not god or human or animal. Every cell in Anna's being screamed for her to run because the woman didn't belong here. Not in Arendelle, not in this world. She was just...she was a monster.
You don't know that, Anna told her shaking hands. You…You can't look at a pool and say it's shallow before stepping in it. She could be friendly. Anna took a deep breath, and it blew away a bit of her shaking.
The woman stretched out her leg. In a flash of soft blue light, a large knife materialized in her hand. It was a thick curved blade, nearly transparent where it sharpened to a point. For a second, Anna found her hope again. However, there was no need for the woman to be biting a stick. And the look her cool blue eyes made when she glanced between the blade and her foot was a little concerning. Is she—
Anna's breath hitched as the woman drew her arm back to deliver the amputating blow.
Anna jumped out of her bush. "Stop!"
The woman's head whipped around so fast that Anna felt her own neck twitch. The woman's look of surprise and almost fear fell into a snarl that made her look more animal than human. She threw the knife, and the ice shattered into a dozen smaller blades as it sped towards its redheaded target.
Nope! Not friendly! Definitely NOT friendly!
Anna treaded mud as she ran to cover. A deep slice to her cheek made her stumble, and just as she regained her footing, another larger volley of ice pelted towards her. Anna screamed and jumped behind a tree. A pit of terror knotted her stomach when she both heard and felt the projectiles sink into the tree in several meaty thuds.
The air dropped to freezing, and Anna choked on her breath. She watched with mounting horror as frost crept over her wet clothes in silver webs. She flexed her hands, and a thin layer of frozen rain cracked and fell off her skin before another replaced it.
This is it. This is how I'm gonna die.
Anna struggled to swallow her panic. She just wanted to go home.
Anna's first string of pleas broke the knot in her throat and let her tears loose. "P-Please, I just—!" She was interrupted with more thuds. The shards of ice violently shook her tree.
"I'm n-not going to hurt you! I—!" There was a strange whizzing sound, and Anna screamed when she found herself flanked by two large fans of angry spiked ice.
"K-Kristoff...," Anna sobbed. She desperately wished her knight would appear to save her. Like he always did when she screwed up.
Why did she come here? She should have just gone home. Kristoff would have just gone home. Anyone else but her would have just gone home.
Anna didn't realize she was sobbing in earnest until she could hear herself. Her choked weeping echoed around the icy hollow.
…No. Anna bit the inside of her cheek until blood pooled over her tongue. I am not going to cry. I am the princess of Arendelle, dammit!
Anna gave herself thirty-two seconds to calm her breathing. She forced herself into rational thought and almost ignored the ice creeping around her.
She had a plan. It was a stupid plan, but it was her only plan. And if she stayed still for much longer, there would be no more tree for her to hide behind.
When there was another pause in the attacks, Anna stepped out from behind the tree.
Like a wild animal, the growling woman was defensively crouched, clearly uncomfortable with being out in the open while she fought off a potential threat. Her jewel-like eyes gave Anna a curious glance-over before her magic swirled around her wrists.
"If you want to kill me, fine! D-Do it! But just so you know, that without me, y-you can't get out!" Anna's shrill voice sounded just as pathetic and squeaky as she feared it would. She could see the tree she had been hiding behind in her periphery. If the ice wasn't meant to kill her, she would have thought it beautiful. But, seeing as that wasn't the case, she couldn't help but shudder at the size of the spikes impaling the bark.
Anna searched the woman's face for any reaction to her words, but the only cue for her to continue speaking was the lack of ice flying at her.
"T-That's right. I-I know how to get you out of that thing." The woman growled, and the humming glow of magic between her hands brightened. "B-But even if I can't, you're going to die anyway. I don't think whoever set that would let a…a-a…H-He just wouldn't let you go, okay? You can kill me and your one chance of getting out of here and t-then die yourself, or you can let me try and get you out."
Or you could kill me and cut off your foot...
Anna tried not to think about that. If the woman was willing to hack off a limb to avoid being found, then why would she even consider Anna's offer? Well…she could agree to let her help and then kill her.
Anna swallowed hard, her endless optimism beginning to fail her.
Arctic blue eyes bored into frightened teal. Their gaze revealed nothing about what the woman was thinking. A thick bead of blood ran down Anna's cheek. The magic in the woman's hands continued to swirl, its rhythmic hum and chime almost soothing over the roar of the rain.
The woman lowered her hands. Her face settled into a distrustful scowl, and a growl rumbled deep in the back of her throat. The temperature rose just enough for the thin frost on the mud and trees to melt into dew and mix with the rain.
Anna didn't move right away. I…I can't believe that worked… She took a step forward, completely expecting it to be her last. When she found herself not impaled, she nearly jumped for joy. But she was careful to keep her movements deliberate and slow as she approached the woman, and she prayed that her innate clumsiness wouldn't get her killed. The woman uncomfortably shifted on the ground the closer she got.
The woman scooted away when Anna crouched near the chain. She distanced herself as far as she could physically manage without straining her ankle. She growled, and her magic hummed around her hands in a quiet yet powerful threat. Anna tried to think nothing of it, just as she tried to think that her hands were shaking because of the cold.
The metal bands dug deep into the woman's skin. The flesh around it was puffed in disgusting shades of red while blood oozed from the open wound and caked with mud around the trap. Anna ran her hands over the metal as she inspected the snare. The woman snapped up and snarled, the movement as quick and aggressive as a cobra strike, when Anna brushed her shin. "S-Sorry!"
Careful not to make any physical contact whatsoever, Anna tilted the trap to look at its underside. She gave an audible "Ah-ha!" when she spotted the tension mechanism. She twisted and pulled the pin that held it together. The woman winced when she accidentally jarred the trap, but Anna didn't stop until the pin was free and the tension released her ankle.
Anna smiled so broadly that her cheeks ached. Yes! I did it! She tossed the pin and wiped the rain and sweat from her brow. "Now that wasn't so—"
The sudden feeling of bark against her back forced the air from Anna's lungs, and the cold hand squeezing her throat kept her from refilling them. She grabbed the offending arm, digging her nails into the corded muscle that easily held her in place. Frost crawled around her throat and up her jaw.
The woman bared her teeth in a pointed snarl, her sharp canines peeking over her lower teeth. Her free hand hummed with icy magic she promised to use. The woman certainly didn't seem like she was a head taller when she was sitting down, but now that she was leering over her, Anna found that she had underestimated her in more ways than one.
Anna felt a tear run down her cheek. She knew she shouldn't have gotten her hopes up. The woman wanted no witness.
She was going to kill her.
The woman's face lowered until their noses almost touched. Her snarl receded to a threatening growl though it was no less terrifying. Her narrowed eyes flickered over Anna's reddening face, her nostrils flaring and her mouth parted. Her grip loosened to give Anna just enough air to wheeze.
Black spots danced at the edge of Anna's vision. The world around her narrowed to the arctic gaze intently staring at her. She waited for something to happen—an icicle to sprout from her chest, her neck to snap, her body to freeze—but the woman just stared at her.
The black crowding Anna's vision turned to stars when the back of her head smacked against the tree. The pressure on her throat disappeared. Her shaky legs gave out beneath her, and she slumped to the ground, her open mouth gulping greedy amounts of oxygen.
Anna's head lolled to the side, and her blurry eyes frantically searched for the woman.
But to her relief, she was gone.
Thoughts? If you could drop a review that would be awesome (it won't hurt your fingers, I promise), but if you can't, I still luv u:3