Chapter 1 – The Business of Arendelle
Kristoff stared into his palm where five gold coins baring the profile of the late King Agdar stared back at him. It was rare for Kristoff to have this much money at one time, and he had more than twice as much more in his money pouch. "Official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer" Anna called it, his new job, obviously made up. But they were actually paying him actual money for it. Twenty gold kroner, just to stock up on supplies, and that's after replacing his sled,
"ahem, sir… 2 kroner, 25 øre." Apparently, the shop stand clerk, a middle-aged woman with dark hair on her head and an annoyed look on her face, had been trying to get his attention for a little while. Kristoff gave an apologetic grin and handed over three coins.
With his change and fresh provisions, Kristoff returned to Sven and his sled, his new Official Ice Master and Deliverer sled, and started packing his gear. He was still getting used the changes… only one week ago, he was alone in the mountains, harvesting ice, just scratching by; and then all the craziness, the freeze, the snowman, the Queen, the big snowman, and Anna. He got stuck on that last thought. Anna.
"Bjorgman!" a man's voice called out.
Kristoff looked up. It was a man, a bit older that Kristoff himself, dressed like an ice harvester, but no gear. He looked a bit familiar, but Kristoff couldn't place his name. "Uh, yeah?"
"Henriksen wants to see you." Hendricksen, the head of the Ice Harvesters guild. Probably not a good thing.
"Oh. OK." Kristoff dropped the rest of the supplies in the back of the sled, "Just let me take care of this-"
"Just head over there. I'll bring your sled and… animal." Sven, distractedly chewing on some hay, gave the man a studied glare.
"Over there" was the Ice House, a tavern where ice harvesters usually gathered and stayed while in town. It was also the unofficial headquarters of the Ice Harvesters and Carvers Guild, of which Lars Henriksen has been the guildmaster for the last ten years. The Ice House was about five minutes' walk from the market, just inside the gate that opened to the mountain road.
Kristoff entered the tavern. He hadn't been here for over a year, but it looked the same. It had a large commons area, with worn tables scattered around, the bar at the back, next to stairs leading to the upper floor where the rooms were. A fireplace was at either end of the commons, with ice-harvesting gear hanging over them. The hearths were not lit, likely due to the recent run on firewood during the "Big Freeze" (that's what people were calling it.) Guild-master Henriksen held court at the table in front of the left fireplace.
Lars Henriksen was in his mid-fifties, thin, sharp features, gray hair, and had, of course, one leg. Kristoff's father told him the story when he was little. Henriksen was a master ice harvester, one of the best. Really knew his ice and the mountain, and Kristoff's father respected him for that. By the time he was thirty, he was leading teams for the guild. A real company-man, Kristoff's father had said. His father had never actually said it, but Kristoff got the feeling that his father and Henriksen didn't get along, since Henricksen was all about the guild, and Krisoff's father usually worked solo. But it never came to any kind of conflict, just a general disagreement as to how to do business. Or that's what he told his young son.
About fifteen years ago, it was during what should have been an ordinary job, early spring, when the demand for ice for export starts picking up. Six men, a horse, and a cart, heading for the upper peaks, where the ice never quite melts. But winter had been long, and the wolves were hungry. They don't normally approach ice-men when they're working, and lit torches and a crossbow bolt or two will keep even the most daring wolves away. The sun was setting and they had a full cart, so it was time to start the return trip. The wolves would usually just follow the crew and cart, but not approach, but not this time. A few jumped out in front of the horse, which spooked. A fully loaded cart won't topple, it's too weighted down, but in the jostling, a rope came loose, and some of the great bricks of ice slid off. And one found Lars Henriksen's right leg, crushing it.
It had to be amputated, of course, and he lost his leg from just above his knee. This would be a career-ender for most men, but not Henriksen. After losing his leg, he suffered an ailment for two months, and almost died from that. But Freya would not admit him to Folkvang. Once he recovered, he had a new leg made for himself, out of wood and iron. One end to strap to his stump, and an ice pick on the other. He worked the ice for three more years, only retiring when old Rangvold passed, and almost everyone insisted Henriksen take over as guild-master.
So, standing across the table from where the other man sat, Kristoff knew this was no one to mess with.
"Kristoff, sit down," Henricksen waved at a chair, and pushed a mug over to Kristoff's side of the table, "Have a drink. Let's talk."
Kristoff sat and took a drink from the mug. It was the house draught, the cheap stuff.
Henricksen held up something in his hand, inspecting it. "So, Official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer. That's something, isn't it?" It was the pendant that Sven was wearing when Anna presented him with his new sled, which he had stored in the sled last he checked.
"Yeah, um, that's just something Princess Anna made up. I really don't—"
"It's all right, " Henricksen interrupted, waving his other hand. "It's good. When the castle needs ice, the guild normally takes care of it. If they want to you to deliver it now, that's fine. And with the gates open again, they will be needing a lot more, and when it's more than you can handle, you know who to talk to." He tapped the table, as if to punctuate his point.
He slid the pendant back over to Kristoff and continued, "The business of Arendelle is ice. Without it, we would be just another fishing village. But we have our pure mountains springs and crystal clear lakes, ready access to the heights from the city, and ready access to the shipping lanes from the fjord. Ideal for our special commodity. Sure, a few other places export their own ice, but no others can match Arendelle's quantity or quality. And it has made our lendmen into kings and queens."
Kristoff wondered where Henricksen's lecture was leading. He knew about the springs and lakes and roads, of course, his father taught him when he was young, and he has been living amongst it all since he'd been on his own. He didn't know so much about sending ice to other kingdoms, since he normally sold his ice in the city and the other towns in the valley. But Henricksen hardly needed to tell Kristoff how important ice was. Ice was his life.
"And so, the Queen… that was some weather we had this last week, hmm?" Henricksen turned to Kristoff, looking for a reaction, but Kristoff just stared back. "Middle of summer, the fjord freezes, ice and snow cover the town, all the way into the mountains. That's quite a feat for our dear Queen Elsa."
Kristoff stood suddenly and angrily. "Don't talk about her like that! It was a stressful day, and she couldn't help it, and people were trying to kill her!" He realized that argument was a bit scattered, but he couldn't let Henricksen talk like that about Anna's sister!
But Henricksen was waving his hands at Kristoff to interrupt his rant. "Kristoff, Kristoff, stop." He gestured for him to sit back down, which Kristoff slowly did.
"You misunderstand me. I think it's great," Henricksen explained. Kristoff gazed back, a little confused.
"Look, first off all, I have the greatest respect for our royal family. My father and King Yorril, Agdar's father, before he was king, served together in the Friesian Campaigns. My father was Yorril's batman, and they saved each other's lives several times over. And his son, King Agdar was quite the gentleman. Arendelle suffered a great injury when we lost Agdar and Irdun."
Henricksen continued, "The queen has magic. Sure, magic is everywhere, it seems. Every family has their Fairy Godmother story, and you can find an ogre or a mermaid if you look hard enough." Or a troll, Kristoff studiously did not say aloud.
"But Queen Elsa is the Ice and Snow Queen, right? The Queen of Arendelle has the magic power to create snow and ice. Is that not perfect? We should put a picture of her lovely face on the packing of all ice leaving our shores."
Henricksen paused, his enthusiasm trailing off.
"But then that's also the problem, isn't it? What is her majesty planning to do with her powers? That ice rink was a lovely piece of work. We certainly could not have done that, not in the summer, so no risk to our livelihood in that. But what else? Freeze a few lowland lakes in the summer? Makes for some easy harvesting, which sounds good at first, but easy ice is cheap ice, and that hurts us all. And then maybe she can just create the ice in ready to use bricks, and then where would we be? Do you see the problem?"
Kristoff didn't know what to say. Elsa wouldn't do that, would she?
"Now, I don't think it would really come to that. The queen has more important things to do. But the question needs to be asked."
"I could ask for an audience, but Trade Minister Skarsgård would insist on being there as well. And with him it's always the trade agreement with Westvale and the mercantile concord of the North Sea States, or some such nonsense. He muddles things up and we'd never get to the point."
"But you have access that rest of us don't. You're friends with the royal family now, so you can get in the castle and talk to the queen without all of the formal ceremony."
"Look, I know you prefer to work solo and not with the guild teams, same as your father. But there are no ill feelings between us, right? The guild took care of you when you were a kid, when you had just lost your father. And we've come to an accord after your early misunderstandings, right?"
It was an interesting way to look at things. Kristoff's father had always felt the guild interfered too much in every harvester's business, with fees and requirements. Ice harvesting is not a high profit business; winter ice sells cheap, and summer ice requires long and dangerous trips, and the ice is half melted before you can get to market. So add in the guild's cut, on top of membership fees, and it can be hard for a harvester to make a living, much less raise a family. Harder still when the family has lost its mother.
And after Kristoff's father was gone, it wasn't the guild who took care of him, it was the other mothers and wives in the mountain village who gave him food and a place to sleep. All the guild did was allow him to tag along with the team, and look the other way when he carted away a brick or two with Sven.
And when he was old enough and big enough to be harvesting ice in any real quantity, then the guild come on hard. He was harvesting professionally now, and there are the rules, and more importantly, there are the fees. But Kristoff, like his father, didn't like it, and so he wouldn't pay. But that just caused more trouble, so the guild put the word out that no one was to buy Kristoff's ice. Business dried up. The money ran out after the first week, and after the second week, Kristoff was hungry enough to agree to anything the guild wanted. That was their misunderstanding.
Henricksen continued, "Kristoff, it's not about you and me and any differences of opinion we may have. It's about the ice and the ice harvesters. Your brothers and mine. It's a proud tradition, going back to the founding of Arendelle almost a millennium ago. We both love our queen, and wish her the best for herself and all of Arendelle. We just need to know where we stand. Can you do this for us?"