Chapter One

After an unexpected and particularly cold winter, spring had come again to the Kingdom of Arendelle. Prince Edvard of Arendelle watched the seasons change in the blink of an eye from his castle, a lonely fortress built into the side of the Scandinavian Mountains. Even down below in the towns of the vale over which he governed, people were celebrating. He had not seen his nieces Elsa and Anna since Elsa's coronation, and he could count on his fingers the number of times he had seen them before that happy day. Nonetheless, it warmed his heart to know the girls had reconciled. Battle was always ugly, but battle between family was a hideous thing to behold.

"I beg your pardon, Your Highness."

Prince Edvard turned from the window. He was a very tall man, straight-backed and fit. He shared the coloring and fine linear features of his deceased elder brother and his niece Elsa, though his eyes were a lighter blue. He wore his platinum blond hair long enough to graze his shoulders, pushed back from a strong, high brow. There was a sadness about the man, as if the forlorn wistfulness of the mountains had seeped into his bones like the mists that rose here when the frost melted. He wore very simple clothing, though they were of fine quality, all in white given that he was not wearing a jacket. He looked ghostly, so fair and swathed in white. In the sunlight, his light blue eyes were nearly colorless.

A wizened old man came into Edvard's bed chamber. "This came for you a moment past."

The spindly man seemed to take the rolled letter from his long, flowing white beard, but Edvard supposed there was a pocket behind it somewhere. He held out the letter and Edvard took it. He was surprised to see the Arendelle royal crest, a crocus, stamped into the teal sealing wax. He broke the seal and read the message inked into the parchment.

"Trouble, my lord?" the elderly master of letters for the castle inquired. He had served Edvard since Edvard had been a child, having chosen to come out here to the mountains rather than remain at the Arendelle royal palace with Edvard's brother.

"No," Edvard said, eyebrows raised. He tapped the parchment on his palm lightly. "Not at all. It would appear my niece the Queen requires my service."

The old man blinked. "Your … service, my lord?"

"My service." Edvard shrugged. "A mystery, in other words, Bjørn. I can't see how I would be able to help my Queen, but I will, as ever, do anything that I can to do so. Queen Elsa is a marvel, gifted as no one has been in many, many years. Arendelle is poised to enter a new Golden Age. Perhaps I should be less … absent."

"You've had your reasons for your distance, my lord," old Bjørn reminded him. "I'm quite certain that Queen Elsa would understand those reasons."

Edvard smiled sadly. "She would … or she would not. I am to blame for much of what has befallen her, I am afraid."

"You did nothing to-"

"Yes, I did nothing," Edvard said bitterly. "I did nothing while my brother hid her away, taught her to fear her gift. I do not blame him. He was frightened, frightened because of the things that I put him through. If this-" He held up the letter. "-means that I could start to make amends to Queen Elsa, then it is a blessing."

"Indeed, my lord. I shall give instructions to have you packed and an entourage prepared. I wish you luck."

"Thank you, Bjørn," Edvard said, smiling a rare smile that lit his face. His teeth were blunt, white, very straight, and there was a hint of boyishness still in his features. "You shall not be accompanying me?"

"I am afraid not," Bjørn chuckled ruefully. "At my age, my lord, it would not be prudent."

"Very well," Edvard said, patting the old man's shoulder. "I'll leave as soon as possible, and write you when I can. I'll leave the castle and the vale to your care."

"As you say, my lord."

The capitol city of Arendelle was in the midst of a jubilee when Prince Edvard arrived. Though he had never been much loved by the citizens of the kingdom, nor even seen by them more often than not, they heralded the arrival of the Queen's uncle as if he were an old friend. Edvard rode in on the back of a dappled silver stallion, waving graciously to the people, greeting lords and ladies that had also come in to join the festivities.

In the castle, he was greeted formally by Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. They briefly spoke of the winter Elsa had brought, and the Queen had the grace to blush at the trouble she had caused. Anna was effervescent, all the resilience of youth evident in her fast recovery from the traumas she had endured. Edvard was strongly reminded of his own youth, and felt invigorated just by being in their presence.

Edvard was settled into his rooms then, and given time to prepare himself for the evening's feast. He took his time in the bath, washing the dust off from the long, arduous journey down from the mountains. He felt chagrined by how difficult he had found the trip, and regretted having wasted so many years shrouded up in his mountainside castle. Self-conscious, he groomed fastidiously, and dressed in resplendent clothing: silver-threaded white jacket, stark white trousers, tall brown leather boots, and a cloak made from cloth-of-silver. He plated his hair back and tied it into a queue, crowning his head with his prince's crown: white gold spun into a semblance of the mountains above his castle, each peak tipped with a perfect, fiery ruby. When the light hit the crown, it looked like a sun was dawning above each mountain peak.

Edvard was distracted by the feast for the better part of the evening. People he had not seen in years caught him up on their lives as if they had only just seen each other the past day. It was a beautiful thing to see, peace after a battle, warmth after a winter.

Later, Elsa found her uncle. They retreated to the gardens, which were all in full bloom. Elsa wore a new gown, soft and green as newly budding leaves and beaded with glass beads that shimmered like dew. For once, her hair had been set loose, and it fell to her waist in waves of platinum, little spring flowers threaded into the locks. Despite the glow of spring, Edvard thought there was still something of frost in his niece, deep in her blue eyes and the silvery undertone of her hair that was so reminiscent of snow.

"It is all quite overwhelming," Elsa said, echoing her uncle's thoughts. "I think that you might understand that, Uncle Edvard?"

"Yes, Your Grace," Edvard agreed. "I fear I've been too long from the capitol. For that, my dear, I am deeply regretful."

Elsa had a small, secretive smile on her lips, though her expression did not betray what she might be thinking or feeling. It was the look of a true queen, Edvard thought, the mastery of being aloof not by choice but by necessity. When had she grown so much? When had all trace of the girl been dashed away by this powerful young woman?

"It is very cold in the mountains, they say," Elsa asked, looking up at her uncle with her head cocked. "Is that true?"

"It is, Your Grace."

"You must still be chilled, then, uncle," Elsa said. She paused. "You're still wearing your gloves."

Edvard skipped a breath. "Your Grace-"

"I thought much about you during my darker days," Elsa said gently. "I've hardly seen you at all in my life, true, but I still do not remember ever seeing you without your gloves. And when my father discovered my … gift, he was not very surprised. He had much fear, but no surprise."

"Sorcery has always been met with fear, Your Grace," Edvard said cautiously. "Even when at its lightest, it can burn."

"Or freeze," Elsa said. "Uncle Edvard … take off your gloves."

"Your Grace-"

"Please." Elsa drew a deep breath, stealing herself. "I … I command it."

He could see how much it pained the girl to order her own uncle about. He had to admire the fact that she was able to stamp down her personal feelings. He owed her the truth, after all, and if this was also a part of making amends, then so be it. He removed his silken white gloves.

Elsa lifted her hand to his, their palms nearly touching. Snowflakes glistened between their hands, and the air was misted by cold. She drew her hand away, but he kept the small storm going in the air. The snowflakes whirled as if they were in a globe, and then he took his hand away, and they melted before reaching the grass.

Elsa turned her face away from him. She was quiet for a very long moment. The spring sun hid behind a cloud, and the garden chilled. Edvard felt dizzy with the thick fragrance of flowers and earth. He missed the indifferent coolness of the mountains.

"Why did you never tell me, uncle?" Elsa whispered. She looked up at him, and her eyes were thankfully free of anger. She merely looked confused, a little hurt. "You could have helped me. You could have taught me."

"I had nothing to teach, Your Grace." Edvard exhaled, and took her hands in his own. "Queen Elsa, my niece, daughter of mine own brother …. Forgive me."

Elsa's eyes widened as her uncle swept down to his knees. He bowed his head over her small white hands, so fragile in his own larger ones.

"I was always very weak in the ways of sorcery, Elsa," Edvard said. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. "I was nothing like you. Yet I once sought to strengthen whatever powers fate had given me, and not for good. I am ashamed to confess that I once sought to usurp your father's throne."

"My father?" Elsa asked in shock. "What- Why?"

"I thought him wanton, not dedicated enough … unworthy." Edvard bowed his head briefly again, then met her eyes directly. "He was much like your sister, Anna, and I was foolish enough to think his innocence and trust marks of weakness. I was jealous of the way that the people loved him, and they were so cold to me. I was a foolish and spiteful younger sibling. I was the man that was unworthy."

"I've never heard of this feud," Elsa said, trying not to believe it. "There was no battle, no … no war … "

"Of course, I never turned against my brother," Edvard said. "I studied sorcery and magic. I strengthened my powers. Your father and I argued most viciously. We came to blows. I nearly killed him when I used my powers in the fight."

Elsa swallowed, her chest heaving with her breaths. "The way I … I almost killed Anna … " She took her hands from his, shaking her head. "No, it … it can't be. You were never close to father, but I never dreamed … "

Edvard stood. "Did you ever dream that you could hurt Anna?"

Elsa did not turn away. She nodded, considering the truth of his words.

"Your Grace, I will accept whatever fate you choose for me," Edvard said. "If you cannot trust me, if you want me banished or … anything else … then, I will respect that."

"I still trust you, Uncle Edvard," Elsa said. "How could I not? We're more alike than I've ever known. I would keep you here, I would have you here more, get to know you more … Yet I have a duty I would ask of you first."

"Anything, Your Grace."

"Thank you, Uncle Edvard," Elsa said gratefully. "As to my task for you, well … I find myself in need of a trusted person to oversee the transfer of a certain prisoner of the kingdom's."