Kristoff Bjorgman, Royal Ice Master and Deliverer of Arendelle, unloaded the last load of rolled-up blankets and fur from the back of his sleigh. It took two of Arendelle's guardsmen to take the bundle of cloth from the tall, muscular man. On a typical day, he would have properly partitioned the loads, but today was not a typical day.
"The queen?" He asked loudly, his voice straining against the howling wind outside the structure they were in.
"In the central plaza, master Bjorgman." One guardsman managed to answer from beneath a bundle of untanned reindeer fur.
"She's been waiting for you, sir." The other one added as they started walking away.
Kristoff resisted the urge to unhook the sleigh from the lone reindeer that was still tethered to it, but there just wasn't time. He nodded to the beast of burden, who appeared to understand his master's intentions and simply nodded back. Sven always knew. Before he made two steps in the direction of the center of town however, a sudden thought entered his mind.
"The princess?" He called out in the direction of the two guardsmen, who were thankfully still within ear's reach.
One of them, a short man struggling under his pile of cloth, shrugged at the ice master with an expression on his face like that of a child being forced to choose between parents. "With the queen...sir," the other one replied, somewhat hesitantly. Without another word, the two bumbling guardsmen proceeded on their way to restock the supply depot with Kristoff's wares.
The ice master nodded and continued towards the center of town, his gait slowing down a bit as he allowed his thoughts to wander for a brief moment. The entire town was on lockdown again, as evidenced by the thick dome of ice that hung like a translucent ceiling several hundred feet over their heads. Beyond the thick ice, Kristoff could hear the wind whistling as the barrier muffled most of the snowstorm battering the kingdom.
This storm was the strongest yet, compared to the past few dozen or so blizzards that had come and went over the past few months. Quite unnatural, the ice master shook his head as he hurried towards the town center.
Even covered by a thick layer of snow, Kristoff knew where to go. While he himself did not grow up within town limits, he had pretty much grown accustomed to the small town after two years of living in Arendelle. He glanced upward to check that he was heading in the direction of the castle spires. The town center was located well within the castle gates, which were kept open now for the townsfolk.
As he reached the long bridge that connected the small island where the castle was to the rest of town, Kristoff could see a pillar of magic rising from the courtyard. It stood several hundred feet into the sky and merged with the very center of the giant dome of ice that encompassed the entire town. It looked like an enormous column supporting the entire structure. And in a way, it was.
The large castle gates swung open to a massed crowd of townspeople, sitting underneath makeshift tents, huddled around each other wrapped in the very blankets he had been delivering all day long. They looked weary and tired, the very life sucked out of them by the bitter cold. And cold it was. Kristoff noticed his breath started to fog the closer he got to the castle.
And then there she was. In the center of the plaza stood a young woman, no older than the ice master himself, standing apart from the other townsfolk. From her upstretched arms, rose a column of pure, glowing magic rising up towards the center of the dome. As Kristoff headed for her, he noticed the visible strain on her face. Her eyes were clamped shut, as was her mouth, thin lips pressed together into a line that ran from cheek to cheek. Sweat was streaming down her temples, down her long, slender neck soaking into the fabric of her blue dress. A visible ring of dark, wet cloth encircled the base of her neck, crystallizing in a few places just above her prominent collarbones where cotton ended and skin began.
"Um, hey." Kristoff said to her as he stopped a meter away from the sorceress, closer than the others but still too close, he reckoned. At that distance, the ice master could feel the biting chill of the woman's aura, much colder than the usual frigid air of winter. This never happened when she used her magic, except for this particular spell - the dome.
"Hey back." Queen Elsa of Arendelle opened her eyes and attempted to smile the sweetest smile she could muster. Her ice master was back, and knowing he was just within arm's reach gave her just a little bit more strength.
"Elsa, you don't look so well," Kristoff said. The former ice harvester had a knack for stating the obvious, to the point of being blunt. Elsa had gotten used to it over the past two years, but it did make for some awkward moments in public.
She tried to shrug, but the column of magic arising from her palms had to be kept stable or else the dome would collapse. Elsa's attention flickered upwards to the giant bowl of ice that she had conjured to act as a barrier between the tiny township of Arendelle and the swirling blizzard outside. Her ice magic was a part of her own being, and she could feel the wind hammering against the outside of the meter-thick sheet of ice that acted as the town's protective skin.
Today's blizzard was the worst so far in months. It had started early in the morning, not even before the first light of daybreak. It was the middle of summer and days came early this far North. The blizzard woke the queen up with a nightmare, and she had called out for her sister and the ice master in the dark.
Sensible as he was, Kristoff had developed a plan for the blizzards with Kai, their most loyal family servant. Together, the trio escorted the queen to the center of the plaza, in the early morning cold, where she could raise the icy barrier.
As heavy as the weight she literally bore on her shoulders, the iceman's task had been much more dangerous. It was his job to rally the townsfolk who lived on the outskirts of Arendelle and escort them back to the town under the safety of the dome. While the kingdom itself was much smaller than its neighboring countries and contemporaries, there were still hundreds of families that made their living outside city limits, farming what meager arable land that was available or living off the land.
Kristoff was the best man for the job, having lived a decade in the wilds away from civilization. There was a time when Elsa couldn't fathom what her sister saw in the feral mountain man, but that time was long past. What was once awkward uneasiness had been replaced by a sense of familiarity that few people even accorded their own family members. The ice master had definitely become part of the royal family of Arendelle. Elsa caught herself before she delved into deeper, more intimate memories. He was part of the family. In more ways than one.
"You don't look so good yourself, iceman." She replied, trying to sound as haughty and confident as her younger sister. The ice master looked bone the worse for wear. His thick hide tunic was caked over by snow, which dusted the dirty grey fabric from neckline to where they met his thick leather boots. Likewise, his dirty blonde hair, normally unkempt and brushed over his eyebrows, was also slightly powdered with fine particles of crystallized ice. The ice man loved the cold, but Elsa could see none of that in his eyes this morning.
"Had to grab more blankets on my way back, and the depot was buried in snow." He said, brushing his hair back and up away from his eyes. "You ok?" He asked, a tone of concern in his voice.
Elsa sighed inwardly, feeling the fatigue of having to hold up the dome with her magic slowly catching up to her. This was the thickest she'd ever had to make the dome, in response to the strongest blizzard yet. Already, she had to fix holes in the southeast and south corners, willing the ice to close over where flying pine trees pierced through the thick barrier. Although she tried her hardest not to let it show, this was taxing her more than anything ever had.
"I'm fine." The queen lied. She couldn't afford her top man to be worried about her right now. The people of Arendelle needed all three of them to be strong and stalwart in this time of need. Conceal, don't feel.
"Anna's with the children." She willed an ice stalagmite to form from the ground and point towards a large, makeshift tent several hundred feet to her left. "She's been...looking for you."
"No she hasn't," Kristoff called her bluff, looking her squarely in the eyes. Things hadn't been smooth sailing between the three the past few months. The blizzards had given them something to do besides bicker over...certain misunderstandings.
"I have to go back out." Kristoff told Elsa in a tone that she knew what useless arguing against. "I saw a wagon on my way back. I think I saw signs of people but I had to deliver my load. I have to make sure everyone's in here."
"It's far too dangerous. The storm's about to pick up speed!" Elsa half-pleaded. She knew it wasn't going to sway the ice master's mind. I a way, it reminded her of her sister - the thick-headed determination to do something he had set his mind on.
"I'm not asking." Kristoff came within arm's reach and placed his hands on the queen's shoulders. Through the thin layer of cloth, she could feel the warmth of his mitts, as if giving her more strength to keep the shield up. He craned his head closer until their noses were almost touching. Elsa could hardly breathe as the scent of his breath brought back a flood of memories, of forbidden times. For a moment, her heart skipped a beat, and then the reality of the present came crashing back in and the queen nodded in agreement.
"I'll be back." Kristoff backed up, bowed, and rushed towards the large tent where the princess was entertaining the children.
As Elsa watched the ice master move away from her, she couldn't help but feel something rather familiar. A feeling she had felt years before, like a heavy little ball in the depths of her stomach, right above her navel. It was the same feeling she felt when she bade her parents farewell right before they boarded the ship that would take them to the bottom of the ocean for all eternity.
The blizzard was even stronger than Kristoff had remembered, and he was in the middle of it just a scant hour ago. He tried not to let Anna's harsh words get to him that much. There was a job to do. Mending hearts and souls could wait until he was sure this blizzard wouldn't claim any more people than it already had.
On the way back, he remembered seeing the snow-covered remains of a cart, still half-full with its load of timber. Its driver was nowhere to be found, although the ice master hadn't had the time to waste - spend looking for him. 'Spend' Kristoff reminded himself. Any time spent for the people of Arendelle was well worth the trouble, no matter how small or insignificant the deed. That he learned from the princess, who spent a lot of her free time with the townsfolk, unlike her sister.
He shook his head clear of thoughts of Anna and Elsa and tried to focus on the task at hand. Tree branches whipped past his as the mix of speed, both his own and the blizzard's, threatened his grip on the leather straps wrapped around his gloved hands.
"Don't push yourself, buddy!" He shouted at Sven. Without slowing down, the reindeer bent his neck backwards to nod at the ice master. The reindeer had been with him since they were both young and little. What was it, almost fifteen years now? They were a well-oiled machine, not even needing to communicate verbally at times. Not that Sven could talk, of course. But Kristoff talked well enough for the highly intelligent reindeer. Together, man and beast dashed across the Scandinavian forest, deftly avoiding foliage on their way to wherever they were headed.
"Still a ways off, Sven." Kristoff mused to himself as he swatted away a loose branch of pine, dried needles scattering against his tunic. They had already passed two of the shacks Kristoff had spied on their rush back to Arendelle. They were empty, the inhabitants having either fled on their own or perhaps escorted by others to town. Or worse. Kristoff hoped for the former.
The thick coniferous forest soon gave way to alpine scrub as they broke through the woods into a clearing. Arendelle was miles behind them, though they were still in the thick of the snowstorm. Without foliage to buffer the storm, the wind was stronger, more powerful up here. The place was close to some of the lakes that Kristoff used to harvest ice from, he realized. Nothing seemed familiar with the curtain of white powder buffeting everything, but Kristoff knew. Some of the harvesters had been gathering ice the day before, and the former ice harvester had to be sure nobody was left up here in the middle of this blizzard.
Sven honked at him and gestured with one hoof towards one of the higher ridges. There, in an area that offered some shelter from the winds, was the silhouette of a figure holding a torch. Its tiny light flickered and flashed as the person waved it in front of him rapidly, as if to ward off something.
"Go!" Kristoff raised the piece of cloth tied across his face to cover his eyes and spurred Sven into action. The reindeer read his rider's intentions a moment before and was already in half-sprint as the ice man unleashed a loud "Hyah!" The two sped against the much stronger winds in their way to their target, a few hundred meters away.
Whatever steep slope they were galloping on turned even steeper into a mix of exposed rock and jagged ridges as they moved even higher, closer to the storm. The figure had backed up into a large crevasse several meters wide holding the lit torch in front of him in a defensive manner. As they neared their intended rescuee, Kristoff could now see what the person was backing up from.
A pack of wolves, large grey ones that scoured the deep Scandinavian forests, were slowly encircling the person. It was odd to see wolves this far up, and definitely out of the woods. Perhaps they were driven out by the blizzard, and moved to higher ground to seek shelter from the sleet. The highlands in this area were a collection of sharp rockwork that offered many hiding places, sheltered from the elements. Kristoff himself had taken shelter in a similar fashion at least once before, spending the night in one of the many caves that dotted the area.
The ice master didn't fancy waiting the rest of the blizzard out in one even in the company of Sven, especially not with a stranger. He had to get back to Arendelle - this was a rescue mission and he didn't bring any supplies at all, especially not for two people and a reindeer. But those were concerns for later. Right now, the most pressing issue were the wolves.
"Faster, Sven!" Kristoff shouted as the duo rushed to the base of the ridge. The ice man was jolted in his saddle as the reindeer stopped to a halt. They were at the foot of the rocky structure. Kristoff looked upwards at the almost-vertical wall separating them from the wolves and their prey. It would take far too long to circle around to the gentler slope they saw from their earlier vantage point. On this side was a rather steep climb up. Sven had to wait here, they both realized.
"Keep alert, buddy. As soon as I can grab him, get ready to bolt." He assured the reindeer as he took out his pickaxe and rope from the single sack hanging from the makeshift saddle slung over the reindeer's back.
It took Kristoff a while to reach the top of the twenty-foot or so rock face. Adrenalin pumped through his veins as the mountain man stressed every fiber and sinew in his arms and legs to scale the frozen wall in record time. In typical circumstances, it was a climb that merited a moment of enjoyment as soon as the ice master's feet were back on solid ground. This was not one of those times.
As Kristoff crested the ridge, he could see the person more clearly now. It was a woman, from the looks of it. Clearly a foreigner, dressed in some formal purple livery that didn't ring any bells in the ice master's head. None of the surrounding kingdoms used those colors for any official function, and the woman was clearly some sort of official. Definitely not a typical resident around these parts.
Perhaps a soldier, Kristoff thought as he surveyed the few hundred feet that lay between them. He couldn't actually see her face, he realized. The woman's tall and lithe frame was topped with some sort of helm, a bit antiquated in design, like a medieval bascinet complete with tiny wings on either side.
She shouted as she swung the piece of wood she was holding, holding two growling wolves at bay with the bright flame at the tip. For some reason, the fire was strong and blazing even against the strong winds this high up. A third wolf circled to her right, apart from the pair harassing her from the front. Baring its teeth and ears slicked back, Kristoff realized it was preparing to pounce.
"Look out!" He shouted as he dug in his pack for the heaviest thing he could hurl. Even with the wind, he managed to hit the wolf in mid-pounce with a rather large carrot, sending it sprawling in the snow in front of the woman.
She turned her head towards him in acknowledgement, before backing up some more, torch in front. Kristoff prepared to rush to her side, then stopped. Separating them was a ten to fifteen-foot chasm, a rift in the rockwork. It was a doable leap in calmer conditions, but the current blizzard made the jump a distant possibility. One with dire consequences.
Nonetheless, Kristoff had no choice. The wolf that he had hit with the carrot was back on its feet, standing with its two other packmates menacing their cornered prey. He could barely notice two more animal silhouettes closing in from the distance, just barely blanketed by a thin curtain of snow. It was now or never.
The ice master backed up and took out two ice picks, one in each hand. While the blizzard had ensured that every surface had a significant covering of snow, the experienced mountaineer in him knew there was solid rock beneath that layer of soft ice. You just had to strike deep enough to reach it. Taking one last, deep breath, Kristoff sprinted towards the lip of the chasm and leapt.
The landing was much softer than he expected. The ice master hit the ground and immediately sunk into a snowdrift, feet first. His momentum carried him into a half-roll that ended with him on his back, surrounded by six inches of snow.
Up here, the cloud cover wasn't as thick and Kristoff could see slivers of blue sky between floating drifts of grey and white. It seemed like the blizzard was more like Elsa's localized snowstorms than typical winter snowfall events. He shelved this information for later as reality returned him to his senses.
The woman was now only a few dozen meters away, still being menaced by four wolves, kept at bay only by a tiny flame at the tip of an equally tiny rod. She turned to him and pointed with her free hand.
"Look out!" Her shrill feminine voice struggled to be heard over the howling of the wind. The growling of the wolves did their best to muffle her warning as well, especially the snarling sounds right behind him.
Too late! The ice master turned around to a wolf in mid-jump. Quickly, he swung with whatever he was holding in his hands - the pick axe. Or what was left of it. Somehow in the landing, the metal head of the axe had dislodged itself, leaving the iceman holding a slightly shorter handle. As luck would have it, he managed to interject the wooden handle between him and the canine's fangs. The wolf's teeth clamped down on the wooden handle like a makeshift bit. Kristoff couldn't let go - he gripped the broken pick axe for dear life, making sure the wolf couldn't free its jaws to sink them into something much softer.
That did nothing for the other wolf closing in behind the one Kristoff was struggling with. "Aaaagh!" He shouted as he tried to heave the beast that was almost on top of him. No good. The animal weighed more than it looked, and the bed of soft snow they were on made any attempt to shove the wolf off almost impossible.
Kristoff could only watch helplessly as the other wolf menacingly walked in with its jaws open. Thoughts of Anna flashed in front of his eyes. Her sweet and infectious smile. Those adorable freckles that ran all the way from the bridge of her nose, down her neck, to her shoulders and then down to her shapely breasts. Images of Elsa fought their way to the surface of his consciousness. Her sad eyes. Those thin lips, always like a slit drawn against her round face. The way they always tasted like honey halfway into mead. He would never see them again. Sven was waiting down at the foot of this cursed rock, waiting patiently for nothing.
After meeting the two sisters years ago, Kristoff never imagined he would end up dying alone. Definitely not on top of a mountain, in the middle of a blizzard, with a complete stranger. He could almost feel the wolf's hot breath on his nose as he craned his neck upwards to see the woman he was going to die rescuing. It made him sick to his stomach knowing she would soon accompany him into the great void. Or in the bellies of half-a-dozen hungry wolves.
He could barely see her from where he was, underneath the large wolf. The woman drew back the torch, held it with both hands, and hurled it into the nearest wolf. Taking advantage of the opening, she rushed a few steps towards Kristoff, took something from the satchel that he now noticed hung from a strap of large beads slung across her shoulder, and hurled it in his direction.
"Stay down!" He heard her shout. With all his might, Kristoff managed to position his legs under the wolf's belly and kicked upwards. The ice master was a strong man, strong for his size - and he was also rather large. The beast was lifted a few feet into the air, just enough to catch the other wolf. And then the rock the woman had thrown hit the two beasts in mid-air.
And covered them in solid ice. Kristoff looked in astonishment as the two wolves were frozen together in a snarling mass of flesh and fur. He had seen something only remotely similar. Once while on a trip down South. Elsa and Kristoff had snuck off into the woods, leaving Anna alone in town. Or so they thought. The princess had woken up and followed their trail into the forest straight into the arms of a large bear. Fearing for her sister's safety, the queen used her magic to freeze the bear in its tracks. The same as with these wolves.
The ice master squinted at the woman who had probably just saved his life. She was no diplomatic envoy or royal official. She was a sorceress.
Kristoff wasn't sure what to do. On one hand, she just froze two wolves together, saving his life in the process. On the other, she was about to be killed and eaten by the rest of the pack. Not unless he had something to say about it. Sighing, the ice master rose to his feet and jumped over the snarling pair of wolves, locked together in an icy embrace but still very much alive. There was nothing to grab on the way but fresh snow, and he ducked down low to get a handful as he sped to the sorceress.
Shouting a rather fierce battle cry, he hurled a snowball into one wolf and hit another with his fist. Kristoff caught it squarely in the flank, and he felt a rib crack against his tightly balled fist. The large dog whimpered and backed off the sorceress to join its pack a few feet behind it.
"Come on!" He grabbed her tiny wrist and pulled her deeper into the crevasse between the two cliffs. While this place should have sheltered them from the blizzard, Kristoff realized that the narrow walls acted as a funnel, concentrating the snowstorm's already strong winds.
"Can you climb?" He shouted as the two rushed upwards into the place between the two faces. The crevasse narrowed into a point smaller than a child. Kristoff knew there were only two other directions to go. Up, or down. Somehow, the ice master didn't want to bank on the possibility of landing of a pile of jagged rocks at the base of this formation.
The sorceress looked at him odd, lines of terror and fright still etched on her face. Kristoff realized he could see her large eyes behind her helm, as if the front visor was made of glass - a helmet design he was unaware of from any of the surrounding nations and kingdoms.
The ice master pointed upwards, gesturing to the cliff wall. Thankfully, the woman understood and started scrambling up onto the rocks. Snarls and growls behind them prompted the mountain man to follow suit, briefly wishing he hadn't left his remaining ice axe in the snow earlier.
"Go, go, go!" He tried to fight the howling of the wind with his voice. As he looked up, he noticed that the sorceress was surprisingly thin and lanky. Her entire body seemed covered in a purplish skin, with only a slightly transparent skirt as her only other article of clothing. Around her torso was thin plate armor painted a reddish-pink hue. Her long, auburn hair whipped around in the wind from where it was loose under the back of her helm. Her odd-looking satchel hung from her shoulder rather limply, obviously much heavier than it looked. It was certainly an odd getup for a sorceress, then again Kristoff had only really known one magic user all his life. One human one, that is. He shelved that thought as he followed her up the rock face onto a smaller platform, away from the wolves down below.
As they reached the top of the rock face, Kristoff could see that it was a spire, offering very little protection from the elements. They couldn't stay here. This high up, the ice master could also see the blizzard in all its shaped glory. The odd weather pattern was a spiral of grey and white, reminding him of the whiteout that Elsa had caused years ago during the climax of the great freeze. He stole a glance at his new companion, her thin arms wrapped around her lanky body on response to the cold. If there were other magic users around, it was entirely possible that this blizzard - and the ones the past few months had been magical in nature. But there were more pressing matters at hand.
"We can't stay up here!" He told the woman, grabbing her and guiding her to the other side. They would have to climb back down, on the other side of the rock face away from where the wolves were waiting.
The sorceress nodded silently and followed Kristoff down the other side. It was steeper than the face they had ascended on, and more exposed to the blizzard's winds. Too late, Kristoff realized as the two slowly descended inch-by-inch. There, around seventy feet below, was a ledge that looked like they could rest on.
Halfway down, a rather large chunk of rock flew past the ice master's face inches away from his rather large nose. The woman was in trouble. "Aaaaahhhh!" Kristoff heard her cry as he watched in slow motion as she lost her footing. First her left boot - if one could call them that - slipped off the narrow crevice she was wedging it against. Kristoff had no idea who thought they could go out in a snowstorm wearing enormously high clogs, with heels to match.
Her right foot followed soon after, leaving the young woman hanging by her hands. Kristoff could barely hear her scream of terror as the wind was just that strong on this side of the rock face. Using that to his advantage, he maneuvered as fast as he could to position himself below the sorceress before it happened.
Within seconds, her body slipped off the cliff meters above the ice master.
Kristoff seconds to act. Her lanky form sped past him in a blur of deep purple, accentuated by her high-pitched scream. The mountain man quickly extended his arm and almost instantly felt it being wrenched out of its socket. He had her.
And then the ice started to give. The world slowed down to a sudden crawl as Kristoff felt the frozen rockwork he was clinging to slowly separate from the cliff wall. Snowflakes, blowing past his face in a blur of white, stood still in mid-air. Strands of his own, dirty blonde hair hung in front of his eyes, motionless. Gradually, the cliff wall grew farther and farther away from his outstretched left hand. He gripped the sorceresses hand with his right as tightly as he could as they fell to an icy death.
With a resounding thud, the ice master hit hard ice far before he expected to. The woman hung on for dear life as she dangled over the edge of the ledge they had apparently landed on. Kristoff felt a jabbing pain in his arm as he took her full weight.
"Don't let go!" She screamed. English, Kristoff recognized the Weseltonian dialect, yet her accent didn't register at all.
"Trust me," he replied as confidently as he could, in the cleanest English he could muster.
Hearing someone understand and reply to her brought a certain level of comfort to the woman's eyes. Kristoff looked down into her large, expressive eyes, barely visible past the frosted glass of her helm. They shone with a deep green glint to them, even past the translucent faceplate. He saw a spark of desperation, and yet there was something else in there he saw only from one other woman. Beneath her scared, terrified exterior was a fighting spirit. Like the princess of Arendelle.
The ice master nodded and pulled with all his might. On her way up, the woman kicked off and upwards to reduce her savior's burden. A little too strongly, Kristoff realized as she overshot the crest of the cliff and the two fell on each other in a pile of limbs.
Her sudden weight on his chest forced a loud "OOF!" from the ice master. The girl actually didn't weigh as much as Anna, even wearing a helm and the odd metal breastplate that was now digging into his chest. Surprisingly, he found her just staring at him through her transparent faceplate. Her large green eyes still wide and trembling from the shock of almost falling to her death. Unconsciously, he pulled down the cloth mask that covered his mouth and nose and smiled. There was something about her that disarmed the normally-rough ice harvester, who normally didn't take well to people he barely knew, much less magic users.
She flashed back a slight smile, though he could see that she was still shaking from their near-death experience. Kristoff himself was somewhat shaken, but this wasn't the first close brush with certain death the ice master has had. It probably won't be the last. He turned his full attention to her. This close, she looked eerily like Princess Anna, and yet just different enough to be exotic. Kristoff wondered just how much of the rapid thumping beneath his chest was from adrenaline and how much was...something else.
A low growl, just melting in through the sound of the wind, shook the two out of their visual melding and back to the situation at hand. A situation that just got a bit more dire. Three of the wolves stood around the duo, barely more than a few arm's lengths away. A fourth came in from the other direction, on the other side of the rock face they had fallen from. Kristoff had no time to wonder how the beasts got down here so fast, or if the trail they had passed to get here was traversable by humans. The cliff was to their back. A few more seconds and it would be a choice between fighting half a dozen snarling predators or what seemed like a several hundred foot drop into the unknown.
Briefly, the experienced mountaineer considered the plunge. He had survived a long drop into soft snow years ago during the great freeze. But this terrain was unfamiliar to him. He had no idea whether the bottom of the cliff beheld a soft mat of snow, or jagged rocks waiting to snatch more victims. No, it would have to be the wolves. Fight or flight. It was time to fight. The woman clutched his arm as the two stood up in record time to face their assailants. And then there, behind the lone wolf, Kristoff saw an opening.
"Go!" He half-dragged the sorceress to her feet towards the wolf, and then past it.
The creature pounced, only to meet a ball of flesh and bone beneath several layers of reindeer hide as Kristoff swung his left arm in a backhanded swing at the beast. There was very little time for the ice master to enjoy his surprise at having struck the wolf. It was the first time Kristoff had punched anyone, or anything – in a long time, and the release felt gratifying. Let it chew on that, he thought as they rushed past the wolf, now lying in the snow.
The two rushed for an opening in the cliff face, one of the caves that Kristoff had heard was on the other side of these mountains. They were apparently on the other side of the range, facing away from Arendelle. The ice master hoped Sven had rushed back home to Arendelle to fetch some help, or at least to let Elsa and Anna know where he was. This was too damn far, and yet still within the range of the blizzard.
The cave was dark, and yet the sorceress and the ice harvester ran as fast as they could, a cacophony of yelps and growls hot on their tails. As they crossed the border between light and dark, Kristoff felt the sudden freedom of not having to fight the blizzard's winds with every limb. In the short span of time between leaving Arendelle and arriving to the girl's rescue, it seemed like he had forgotten how it felt not to have an invisible force of nature pushing against your every step and swing.
"Wait!" The sorceress shouted. Kristoff felt his arm jarred as she stopped and turned to face the pack of wolves. This was it. They were just deep enough into the cave that the light from the opening barely touched the tips of their feet. Any further and they were easy pickings for the wolf pack, especially that Kristoff had been told they could see in the dark. He had no intentions of testing that theory out.
He watched in the dim light as she took a stance more fitting of a fighter than a magic-user. For a sorceress, she was definitely more of a fighter than the other one he knew. Then again, Elsa was less of a fighter than even Olaf. The woman's right hand dropping to her enchanted satchel. Her thin, lithe fingers quickly traced a sort of incantation over the face of the bag, which glowed brightly with symbols the ice master couldn't clearly understand. Almost immediately, she conjured a glowing, magic orb in her hand.
"Don't let go." She turned towards the ice master, her lips pressed into a thin line. He felt her grip on his wrist tighten as he nodded back in the near-darkness, only slightly-punctuated by the blips on her satchel, the glowing sphere she brandished like a weapon, and the tiny pinpricks of light emanating from the eyes of the wolves as they grew more accustomed to the darkness.
The sorceress turned to the pack, having stopped just a few feet inside the cave, and hurled the orb. Kristoff watched in slow-motion as the glowing yellow ball arced through the air and landed between the wolves. In a split-second, the entire pack was engulfed in a massive fireball that blossomed forth from the tiny magic sphere. The explosion sent tremors through the ground - and the ceiling. Oh no, he realized what was coming.
Kristoff watched, stunned as the mouth of the cave collapsed in a pile of rocks and boulders. Rapidly, what little light from the outside came through the opening dwindled with each chunk of rock and ice that fell in front of it. The ice master watched their only means of escape close like the mouth of a giant beast, until the darkness overtook them.
"Are you there?" A light, feminine voice rang in his ears. Kristoff stirred and found himself coughing from dust and whatever else was in the air. It smelled foul and yet familiarly acrid. It reminded the ice master of rotten goose eggs.
"Hey. Are you awake?" He felt a slight tapping on his chest. Fingers. It was the light tapping of fingers through his tunic that pulled him from seeming unconsciousness. It took a few moments for the ringing to leave his head through his ears. It didn't completely disappear, however. It hid in the darkness as a low hum, just waiting for another long stretch of silence to assault him.
The darkness. He remembered the wolves. And the snow. And the explosion. And the cave-in.
Oh no, he realized. "Am I dead?" The ice master of Arendelle asked out loud, his voice echoing in the jet black chamber. It was far too dark, and far too silent. He imagined the afterlife to be more…festive, if Bulda's stories of Valhalla or the other realms were to be believed.
"Oh thank god, you're alive!" The voice exclaimed, somewhat familiarly. Alive. He was alive. Or so the voice claimed. The sorceress survived the cave-in, it seemed. It reminded him of Anna when she was excited, and the princess of Arendelle was indeed extremely excitable. The level of vigorous enthusiasm was quite welcome in the blackness of the cave. Kristoff still couldn't make out where the entrance was. If he could shift some of the rocks, it might just let some light in. Any light.
"We have to get out of here," he said, groping in the darkness for something - anything. He tried his hardest to remember where the cave entrance was, and then gave up almost immediately as he realized he didn't even have an ice pick. The size of those rocks that fell when the sorceress cast her spell, he would need tools to shift them around, much less break them. They had nothing but their hands to dig themselves out with.
"Um, thanks for the save, but I have no idea what you're saying." Her voice echoed in the cave, amplified by the apparent darkness. "Uh...como esta English?" She added, her hand tapping down on his shoulder lightly.
English. Right. That was why he could barely understand what she was saying. Kristoff tried to wrap his head around words as he silently thanked Elsa for shipping him and Anna to Weselton for a few months. That was a fun vacation, he tried not to think of the shenanigans he and the princess had gotten into in those few weeks abroad. At least they managed to pick up some Weseltonian – or English as it was appropriately called.
"Uh, English. Yes, English." Kristoff answered. Gears in his head started turning. The woman didn't appear to speak Norge, but seems to speak English rather well. That might have explained her odd attire, although it was as Weseltonian as lutefisk, which was to say, not very much at all. Kristoff shrugged in the darkness. Not that it mattered while they were trapped inside a cave, in total darkness, with a howling blizzard outside, waiting for rescue. He tried to pull some more words from his hazy memory. "Uh, hello?" Kristoff said out loud.
"Hello! Hello! Omigod you speak English!" He felt the woman take his hand with both hands. She shook his hand vigorously, much like an overenthusiastic Anna or Rapunzel would. "You have no idea how crazy this has been! First there was the nexus, then the light, then something went wrong and we all got separated and I landed here, and the snow, and the wolves! Did I mention the snow? That's like, so crazy!"
Kristoff was having trouble following her excited chirping. She was way more hyper-active than his Anna. Or it might have just been the rush from the events of the past few minutes. Then again, he and Anna had been in similar scrapes, and the princess had always had at least a sense of smug calmness when it suited her. From the sound of it though, the sorceress was just pretty happy to have found a fellow human being in this crazy blizzard. Thinking a bit about it, so was he.
"Wait, lemme fix this." The sorceress said. He saw faint, glowing symbols appear out of thin air - it was her magic purse, emanating its multihued glow again. He could see the shadows of her fingers flicking across the sigils, casting another spell. Kristoff could barely make out anything in the faint darkness, now punctuated by the immensely strong yet very localized light coming from the sigils.
And then there was light. A slight greenish-yellow glow started emanating from a glowing orb that the sorceress was holding in her hand. She set it down on a rock pedestal conveniently right beside where the two were. The cave shone with an eerie radiating light that was as far from what Kristoff would even consider 'light'. Still, it had to do.
She crawled closer to him and took his hand again. "Thanks for saving my life mister..." her hanging sentence prompted a reply from the ice master.
"Bjorgma-..." He paused, trying to look at the woman. The light shone off her helm in a manner obscuring her face. He squinted but to no avail. "Kristoff." He shook her hand in a more formal manner. "And...you are?" He added, curious about the identity of this stranger. This foreign, magical girl who apparently had just saved his life, just as he had saved hers.
The sorceress stifled a giggle, then took off her helm. She shook her head from side to side, letting her long, auburn hair loose down in front of her thin torso. From one of the pockets of her satchel, she took out what were rather large, pink-rimmed spectacles and slipped them over her already-enormous eyes.
"Call me Honey," the woman replied. "Honey Lemon."