Queen Anna thought she knew her subjects.

As princess, she had walked not above them, but among them – as blithely as any village girl. She had been as carefree in the market as the commonest of folk, had mingled with the old women by the stalls as if they were her family. For to her, they were. Her grandmother was but a shadow of the mind, a portrait she had given life in childhood, but a figure she knew not. Her mother had been… lost to her. And so, these old women of the village were her family. They were her aunts, her grandmother, her mother – all! And the old men with their knobbled hands and noses, they were dearer grandfathers to her than her grandfather by blood… Anna had Elsa, she had Kristoff, had Olaf and Sven – and she had these people.

She, who in childhood thought loneliness alone was her lot, had a family of such limitless sprawl…

And yet, Elsa was gone…

And the people – the people she had chatted with as they brought their fruits to market, as they returned to their homes carrying wood, as they sold smoked meats for winter dinners, as they skated upon the marvelous ice rink – the people of her home

The first time the young queen sensed tension between an Arendellian street vendor and a man of the Northuldra, she could hardly process it.

The man had come bearing blankets to trade – as the Northuldra sometimes did, passing through the village with fresh-caught fish, with finely woven garb, with quilts patterned with starfire, before heading onward…

The vendor had not refused him. No one had responded to his gentility with outright abuse. Not with direct abuse, no... It was the most insidious form of contempt. But Anna felt it, standing in the square as she had done in the days before she was queen, wondering if the crown upon her brow was the only thing holding back an outbreak of violence in this place that she… she thought she knew.

She, in full regalia of Arendelle, had gone to comfort the man.

Eyes had been upon her.

She had felt them. She had seethed.

The queen had eyes of her own, more manifold than those within her head – and she set them at work a-watching.

Eyes, ears, lips that whispered back the whispers that rippled through her realm…

Anna blanched to hear them.

How could this be? In her home? How could the grotesqueries of her grandfather, long-dead, tarn the waters of the fjord she once knew as crystal? How could they blacken the green slopes she had taken heart in gazing upon since the day the gates were thrown open?

It was not long before she suspected a source.

Grizzled, his hair was – and his skin mottled by years in the wilderness. He was one of Mattias's company, but some years older even than he.

Anna distrusted him, distrusted the dark luster in his eye.

For Mattias, loyalty ran deep – but it was not the bitter patriotism of a zealot. There was a bitterness to this old soldier. Something of Runeard hung about him, as though the slain king's spirit had passed into a warped vessel to fester in the world…

(Runeard would have loathed that phantasmagorical surmise.)

No, this was not sorcery. Anna had seen sorcery's beauty. Runeard had passed to the soldier naturally, in the manner that prejudice was always simply and uncleanly passed…

She told Mattias to fix his gaze on him. Mattias did so dutifully.

She fixed her own gaze on him, more piercing than any of the gazes she had at her disposal.

And yet, when that fateful morning came and the cry went up from the village square, Anna was still aghast. All anticipation of the worst could not prepare her for the sight – the sight of her parents' statue shattered upon the earth – that withered man's boot upon her mother's shining face as he stood there, waited there with a curious nonchalance, almost a surly superiority.

He had not hauled down the statue himself.

Other hands had helped him, they must have done.

But they had coiled into the night while he had stayed.

(Did he know that he was being watched? Was that it? Did he know that he would be the first suspected, so he might as well stay to sneer, knowing his co-conspirators had already slunk subtly away?)

"Is this open treason, then?" the queen demanded. "Do you openly betray your country?"

Eyes upon her, as before. The eyes of the citizenry. The eyes of the soldiers assembling behind her ready to fight – for her? To mutiny against her? She could trust Mattias, at least – Mattias, at her side, sword-hilt gleaming in his scabbard…

"I'd say it is you who betrays our country," the man replied. "Thirty-four years in that enchanted hell, the memory of Arendelle is what kept me going, but I see nothing of Arendelle here."

"Then you know nothing of Arendelle," the queen hissed.

"And the daughter of one of our enemies does? Blood-kin to a witch?" He laughed hollowly.

"How dare you take my mother's name, my sister's name, upon your lips?"

"Oh, two daughters of Arendelle, the pair of you!" he spat sarcastically. "One, a silly little girl playing in her mother's raiment – and her mother a deceiver and a pretender, at that! The other, a sorceress, with such love in her heart for this land she fled from it! You going to call her up, then? Have her sea-demon trample me? You sure she'll come? Is she even human? Does she even love you?"

Mattias's saber flashed, but it was not Mattias who swung it. It was Anna. Something in her snapped at the man's last taunt, and she did not realize what she had done until the image of the man's blood-soaked head lolling by the head of her mother burned itself into her finally-seeing eyes.

There was still the hint of a smile upon his lips.

She was not sure he had even flinched as the blade had come for him.

Hot blood was pulsing through Anna.

Her heart was beating.

The people stood in shock.

Even Mattias shifted uncomfortably beside her.

"My queen?" he breathed.

"My sister… loves me," Anna whispered, but she was speaking to the vacant air.

Burning tears spilled down Anna's cheeks, but she did not know if she was weeping because of what she had done, because the people had not rallied around her when they saw the destruction of the statue, or because Elsa was…

Her mind shook with the blur of sobs rather than dare pronounce the word "gone."