Chapter 1: Prologue
Elsa stared out the window of the tallest tower. The land surrounding her castle was covered in a thick blanket of pristine snow. No footprints, not even the swirling of a hard wind to unsettle the crystalline ice. This was the view she had to endure for the last 16 years. She growled softly to herself and made her way back down to her quarters, there was no point in hoping. No one was coming to save her. This icy fortress would be her prison for all eternity.
But it hadn't always been this way. The castle had once been a lively and bustling place, with parties and balls. And chocolate! But on the night of her 8th birthday, a little redheaded girl appeared at the castle, unannounced, interrupting her birthday party. Being an 8 year old princess, she did what anyone would do to a street urchin crashing her party. She promptly shooed her away. When the girl persisted, she got increasingly agitated and lost control of her power, shooting a bolt of ice at her, striking her directly in the chest. It was at that time that the girl transformed into her true form, a beautiful and terrifying Enchantress. She claimed that there was no love or compassion in Elsa's heart, that she was as cold and frozen as the deepest hour of the winter solstice itself. Elsa tried to apologize and beg for mercy, but in one swift motion, the Enchantress plunged her hand directly into Elsa's chest and pulled from it her heart, still beating, holding it in her hand as she whispered an enchantment onto it. In an instant, Elsa felt as if her body was burning inside and out, every bone was breaking and reshaping at once. She screamed in agony as she fell to the ground. And then it was over as quickly as it had begun. She shakily got to her feet again, panting and looking around. Her guests and servants were no longer there, instead little snow people bounced around in a chaotic panic.
The Enchantress turned to her and handed her back her heart, stating that if she was able to find someone to love and earn their love in return before the heart completely froze on her 25th birthday, then the spell would be broken, otherwise she would be doomed to stay in this form forever.
Still frozen with shock, all she could do was watch the woman depart without another word. She huffed and turned to figure out what to do with the little snow people. And that's when she saw her reflection in a mirror for the first time. She screamed, terrified at her own image but instead of her usual voice, it came out as a mighty roar.
Warning: Hans is an absolute misogynistic d-bag in this.
Honeymaren stifled a snort as she watched Ryder polish his sled yet again. "If you give that thing any more polish, you're going to slide right off the seat."
"I just wanna make sure everything's perfect!" He insisted, rubbing his oil cloth over the side rail one more time.
"It's not even the sled you're selling."
"Yeah… but people are going to look at the quality of the sled and say, 'Well I was gonna buy his carved goods, but that sled is just not impressive, his carving must be just as sloppy!' and then I'll lose a sale and they'll never invite me back to the big market ever again..."
Honeymaren rolled her eyes and pulled him away from the sled, throwing an arm around her brother's shoulders. "Your work is amazing, Ryder. They're going to see that. You're going to sell every stool, rocking chair, and reindeer figurine that you bring with you. Every single one. Trust me." She switched to a headlock and gave him a noogie with a laugh.
"Hey! Don't mess with the hair!" He wrestled his way out of her grip and quickly fixed his hair.
Honeymaren laughed and backed off. "Are you sure you don't want me to come with you? An extra pair of hands couldn't hurt... Especially for your first market in Corona."
Ryder snorted, putting the last messy curl in place “I can do it! Plus, I’ve gotta step out from your shadow and prove myself capable at some point, ya know?”
Honeymaren chuckled, "Alright, alright... You've got this, little brother." She smiled, "I'm going to the shops. Need anything?"
Ryder thought a moment “carrots! Oh and a couple baguettes if they’re fresh, please! I’ll get to work hitching up the team. And please don’t dally around daydreaming like you do, I want to get going soon so I can get a good bit of travel in before nightfall.”
Honeymaren rolled her eyes, "I won't go daydreaming... And I'll be back soon. With carrots. And baguettes." She made her way out into the small town. Did it get smaller every time she went outside? It felt like it.
Hans was watching the village below through his telescope. He was the mayor of the city, it was his job to keep tabs on everyone, he reasoned. Not like anyone had the nerve to call him out on his creeper behavior anyway. He flashed a big smile when he saw the object of his affections striding across the market toward the vegetable stands. He pulled on his jacket, looked in the mirror 5 times, stroking his thick mutton-chop sideburns and hurried down to town to intercept the beautiful woman.
Honeymaren stopped for vegetables first, eager to get the best pickings before they were gone. She grabbed a few bunches of carrots for the reindeer (and Ryder), then some potatoes, onions, and garlic for herself.
"What a lovely sight for sore eyes." Hans sauntered up, leaning against the wooden post supporting the awning over the vegetable monger's wares. "I was hoping I'd see you today."
Honeymaren stiffened the second she heard his voice. Of course he's here... I can't set foot out of my house without him showing up. She knew he had power in this town, though. She couldn't afford to upset him, as much as she wanted to give him a reason to have sore eyes. "Hans. Always a pleasure." She said dryly, not looking at him.
"That's Mayor Hans to you, if you don't mind. But I'll forgive you this once." Hans smirked "To make amends, you could come to dinner with me this evening. I know of a lovely place that serves the best dinner casseroles. What do you say to me picking you up at 7?"
Honeymaren picked out some radishes and quickly paid the farmer. "I'm afraid I've already got plans, Mayor."
"Doing what? Carving little toys with your brother? Chasing reindeer across the fields? You're a beautiful woman, you shouldn't be doing stuff like that. You'd make the perfect little wife, keeping a quaint little home and tending to your babies. You should be settling down before it's too late and no man wants you. You know what happens to spinsters in this town." Hans sneered. "Wouldn't want you ending up like Anna over there..." he gestured his head towards a redhead woman, just a few years older than Honeymaren, making her way around the square asking for coins.
"Maybe I would." Honeymaren shrugged. "That's entirely up to me, isn't it?"
Hans scoffed "Well, I don't know what land you come from, but I'm pretty sure it's the other way around. Women don't get a say in who they marry... it's all in the dowry that's arranged between father and prospective husband. The man is taking on the responsibility of caring for his wife and needs to be compensated properly for his efforts. Now, seeing as your parents aren't with us, gods rest their souls, I suppose I should be calling on Ryder as the man of your household."
Honeymaren stopped moving, Ryder would never agree to it... But Hans had his ways of making people do what they wanted. She nodded slowly, "I see. Well, he's already on his way to Corona, he left early this morning, but he'll be back next week."
"I can wait." Hans smirked "And you know, this is a great honor for me to even consider taking you as my wife. In my position, I could have any woman I want, so I'm really sticking my neck out here..."
Honeymaren forced a smile, "I appreciate your interest... Of course a single woman like me can't be trusted to make these kinds of decisions for myself, so I'll talk with Ryder about it as soon as he returns and I'm sure we'll come to an agreement."
"See, now you are getting the way things work! And don't worry, I will have you as my wife one day, mark my words. I always get what I want." he sneered and turned on his heel, strutting back to the castle, dismissively waving at a group of young women fawning over him by the hat store.
Honeymaren shuddered as he left, feeling like she might gag. She and Ryder had to leave town. Or at least she did. Maybe they could move to Corona together... She bought a few bread loaves and quickly returned home. "Ryder... What do you think about moving to Corona?"
Ryder shrugged “well, I guess I’ll be back next week, so I can tell you what it’s like. What’s bringing this on, Mare? You’re being so serious, I don’t like it and it’s kinda scaring me.”
Honeymaren handed over the vegetables and bread. "Hans wants me to marry him. And he's not asking. He intends to ask you for my hand when you return, and I know he's not going to take no for an answer."
Ryder shuddered and shook his hands in disgust “ugh... that man gives me the chills! Well hopefully I’ll sell enough stuff for us to have the money to move. There’s no way that man is going to marry you. Over my dead body!” He said firmly “come here.” He hugged her close “we’ll get through this, okay?”
Honeymaren hugged him tight, "Thank you, Ryder... I knew I could count on you. We'll get out of this town. I'll start packing while you're gone."
Ryder nodded “try to be subtle. That asshole has eyes and ears everywhere.” He tossed the bread and carrots into the back of his wagon that was full of wooden goods. “I’ll be back in a week, okay?”
"I will. You've got this, Ryder." She smiled, "And be careful too, I told him you were already gone..."
“I’ll take the side route, I know a shortcut. No one will see me leave.” Ryder nodded and hopped up onto the driver’s seat, tapping the reins against the four reindeer he’d harnessed.
Honeymaren nodded, relieved. She saw him off and tried to busy herself indoors. She'd just do everything she could to keep away from Hans until Ryder returned.
What she wasn't expecting was to see Ryder's cart return without him, terrified reindeer panicking as they rushed to the house. Honeymaren hurried outside and tried to calm them, but she couldn't fight the rising worry in her chest. Something had happened to Ryder. She unhitched the reindeer, grabbing the leader, Sven, and swung up onto his back, "Take me to him!"
Sven took off in the direction it had come. Honeymaren had trained him well, it was almost as if she had some connection with the animals that they understood her, even though it was Ryder who insisted on speaking for them.
She held on tight, letting the deer lead her into the dark forest where the trail turned into brambles. She looked around cautiously, concerned to see snow falling. It was nearing summer, there shouldn't be snow anywhere around here.
Sven picked up on a trail of sloppy footprints leading through the thick snow, flanked by large paw prints, likely from the pack of wolves that had been chasing them earlier.
Honeymaren could feel the deer growing restless, nervous under her. "It's alright... You're alright."
Sven cautiously continued forward.
Honeymaren searched the area, but suddenly the path opened up to reveal a huge, frozen castle, complete with a winding driveway and a frosted iron gate. She climbed off of the reindeer, trying to keep him calm. Honeymaren shivered, but something in her knew that Ryder had been here. Might still be here. The gate was cracked open, just enough for a smallish person to fit through, and under closer inspection, she saw a piece of fabric struck in the briars: piece of his cloak. Honeymaren climbed through the gap in the fence, then helped Sven through, and hurried to the door of the castle, shivering all the way.
Ryder sat on the cold floor, trying to remember the series of recent events that somehow landed him here. His head throbbed, as did his leg from where a wolf had gotten him. He had been thrown from the wagon and had to run for his life, angry wolves chasing him relentlessly. At first he had been relieved to see the massive castle that had appeared seemingly out of the still dark air. But as soon as he entered he found it was cold and deserted. Or so he thought. Now he was shivering in a cell.
Honeymaren knocked on the huge wooden doors, mostly frosted over in the cold. "Help, please!"
The doors shuddered and opened slowly.
Honeymaren walked in slowly, cautious. She closed the door behind her to keep out the chill, though it was plenty cold inside, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark. "Hello?"
“Hi! I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs!” A voice rang out behind her
Honeymaren jumped and turned around, but there was nothing at eye level. Slowly, she looked down and found a snowman. A snowman that was waving at her. She screeched and kicked its head off as hard as she could.
“Whoa! Ouch! It didn’t actually hurt but it felt like the right thing to say.” The headless body turned around and went groping blindly got its top third.
Honeymaren stared in shock, "You... You're talking. You're a snowman. And you're talking !"
“Uh, yeah? Is that strange?” Olaf found his head and plopped it back on.
Honeymaren stared a long moment and nodded. "Yeah."
Olaf furrowed his snowy brow “oh... well, we don’t get many visitors. In fact you’re only our second one we’ve had in years!” He waved his hands excitedly
Honeymaren nodded slowly, then realized the first must have been Ryder. "Your other visitor, was it a man? Young man, dark hair? Looks a little like me?"
“Yeah! Do you know him?” Olaf grinned wide “he was nicer, at least he didn’t kick me.”
"Sorry... Um, yeah, he's my brother. Where is he?"
“He’s this way! Come on, I’ll show you! But walk quietly, we don’t want to disturb the Mistress of the castle.”
"The... Mistress?" She asked softly, following the little snowman as she looked around the frosted halls. As they passed a coat rack, she grabbed a wool cloak and pulled it over her shoulders to keep out the chill.
“Yes... she’s probably in her tower... best to let her stay that way... she has a bit of a temper.”
Honeymaren bit her lip and nodded, "Is Ryder okay?"
“Uh, I think so? I mean, he’s alive... though I think his run in with the Mistress did a bit of a number on him.”
Honeymaren tensed, picking up her pace. "I must see him. Quickly."
Olaf waddled along, his twiggy arm holding onto the hem of Honeymaren’s parka as he led her down the icy corridors and down into the dungeons.
“Is someone there?” Ryder coughed weakly, curled into a ball to try to conserve his body heat.
“RYDER!” Honeymaren rushed down the stairs and knelt in front of his cell, "I'm here, I'm here-" she reached for him through the bars.
“Mare? What are you doing here?! No, you need to go before she finds you! Save yourself and don’t worry about me!” Ryder pleaded, fear evident in his gaze.
"I am not leaving you here." She said firmly, "Are there keys somewhere? How do I get you out?"
Ryder continued to plead “no, please, sister... just go!”
"I'm not leaving you!" She hissed back, looking around for something, anything that maybe she could wedge between the bars to pry the door open.
Olaf shuddered when he heard a loud roar coming from up the stairs. “Oh, that’s not good.”
Honeymaren looked over her shoulder, tensing. She got to her feet and stood in front of Ryder's cell, protective. "Come on then!"
“What is the meaning of this?” Elsa growled from the shadows “Who are you? Why are you here?”
"You have my brother imprisoned here, and for what? He's sick, he'll die if you leave him here! Release him at once!" She demanded, glaring into the shadows.
“I caught him trespassing...” Elsa growled “This is my castle, I do as I please.”
"This castle looked abandoned." Honeymaren insisted, "Please, we will leave and you will never hear from us again."
“As you can see, it is not.”
"And how were we to know that?" Honeymaren snapped back, her eyes boring a hole into the shadowy mass.
Elsa roared in frustration.
Olaf waved his twiggy arms “Uh, Mistress...”
“What?!” Elsa snapped back
“Remember you were working on controlling your temper and showing mercy?” Olaf cowered a little.
Elsa paced in the dark corridor as she thought “but he’s my prisoner!” She protested at first, then conceded, “fine. I will show the girl mercy. But he stays.”
Honeymaren huffed back, "No. You let him go and I'll be your prisoner instead."
Ryder sat up "What? No, Mare!"
Elsa narrowed her eyes, confused "You would take his place instead? Why?"
"Because I love my little brother... And if I go back without him, my life is over anyways."
"Honeymaren, no! I can't let you do this!" Ryder pleaded. "You don't know what she's like!"
Honeymaren glared at the shadows, "Then show me. Step into the light." Not that she was going to change her mind.
Elsa growled and dropped to all fours, stepping slowly into the dim light of the candle before raising up to her full height in front of Honeymaren.
Honeymaren looked up at her, doing her best not to look frightened. The Mistress was looming and huge, covered in thick white fur with curved clawed hands and feet, no, paws down below. On her head, the white fur seemed to turn to hair, gathered in a messy ponytail, but two horns curved upward from her forehead. She had an almost feline facial appearance except the sharp teeth jutted out from her lips, curled in a sneer. Honeymaren held eye contact with her, her mind made up. "Take me instead. Let him go."
Elsa looked down at the young woman, then over to the prisoner and back to the woman "Done." she reached her hand forward and unlocked the door to the cell.
Honeymaren turned to Ryder, but found herself restrained by a clawed hand. "Let me at least say goodbye to him!"
"Fine." Elsa growled, letting go for a moment.
Honeymaren rushed to Ryder's side, kneeling. She put her cloak around him, "Go home, Ryder. Go home, okay?"
Ryder clung to her, "I'll get help, I promise." he whispered quietly before a rough hand grabbed him by the collar and pulled him out of the cell, dragging him up the stairs, through the castle and out into the night. A dozen little snow people had started following her as she strode past with Ryder in tow.
"Take him to the village." Elsa commanded, watching as they lifted Ryder and carried him unceremoniously away.
“Ryder-" Honeymaren watched as they took him away, and soon any trace of him was gone entirely. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering as her tears began to fall.
Elsa returned to the dungeon, cringing slightly at the quiet sobs. Honeymaren’s crying made her feel uncomfortable. She noticed Olaf shrugging at her and quietly gesturing like charades. "What?" she hissed at him.
"Perhaps we could put her in one of the spare rooms?" Olaf offered meekly.
"You're telling me to put the prisoner in a room, like a guest ?" Elsa growled "Fine..." she turned back to Honeymaren "I'll... show you to your room."
Honeymaren looked up, "My... Room?"
Elsa waved to the dungeon cell "Would you prefer to stay here instead?"
"No, I... No. Thank you." She got to her feet, ready to follow.
Elsa dropped to all fours as she walked, moving slowly through the corridors, her tail flicking impatiently behind her, just the tip visible under her pale blue cloak. "This castle is your home now. You can go wherever you like. Except the North Tower."
Honeymaren frowned, "What's in the North-"
"It's forbidden." Elsa quickly cut her off.
Honeymaren closed her lips, looking away. "... Fine.”
Elsa padded quietly through the cold hallways, leading her to the East Wing, pushing open a door to an elegant room. "This is your room. And you'll join me for dinner, that's not a request." she waited until Honeymaren was inside and quickly slammed the door closed.
Honeymaren huffed and made fists at her sides. What was happening here? Was she just a prisoner or did the Mistress want to play 'house'? She flopped face first on the bed, content with simply sulking until this all made sense.
Olaf knocked softly on the door "Miss Honeymaren?"
Honeymaren sighed into the bedspread. "What."
Olaf pushed the door open a little, sticking his head in "Can I come in?"
"Why not..." She sighed, shaking her head.
"That was really brave what you did back there." Olaf entered the room entirely, looking at the dark fireplace "Can I get a fire going for you?"
"Wouldn't that melt you?" Honeymaren looked up from her bed, peeking over her arm.
"I'm made of magic and permafrost." Olaf shrugged. "You think I haven't tried melting myself to escape this hell?"
Honeymaren frowned, "... Huh. So you're trapped here too."
"We all are." Olaf sighed "I don't even remember how long it's been... what day is it?"
Honeymaren thought for a moment, "It's June. I think the 17th?"
"And the year?"
"1847." She added, tilting her head.
"Huh... I guess sixteen years flies by when you're trapped inside an enchanted castle." Olaf rested the back of his head on the bed.
" Sixteen years? " Honeymaren finally sat up. "Has it been just you and her this whole time?"
"Well, there's the snowgies... but they don't really count. They can't even talk." Olaf shrugged "So, yeah, I guess it's just been me and Mistress Elsa."
Honeymaren took that in for a long moment. "A fire would be nice, Olaf. Thank you."
Olaf grinned and bustled over to the fireplace, tossing logs onto the hearth, squealing once when his arm came unattached and found its way to the wood pile. He quickly grabbed it and put it back in place, then struck a match. "So, we should get you prepared for dinner next."
Honeymaren sighed, "I don't want to go to dinner."
"But... but she told you..." Olaf waved his arms, concern growing increasingly evident across his snowy features.
Honeymaren shook her head, "She can't just order me around. It's bad enough she's making me stay here, but I'm not about to make it easy on her."
"Uh... if you insist..." Olaf gave a quick exasperated sigh. And he thought that Elsa could be stubborn. Honeymaren seemed to already be giving her a run for her money. He could sense that this was going to be a very, very trying night. "I'll... just tell her that you're not coming."
"Thank you. I do hope she doesn't take it out on you, though." She added, feeling a pang of sympathy for the snowman.
Olaf closed his mouth and quietly left the room, leaving a heavy silence in his wake that spoke louder than any words he might have said to her comment.
Honeymaren waited, cringing when she heard a furious roar from downstairs and the sounds of metal and wood hitting stone, followed by thunderous stomping traveling up the stairs.
Elsa pounded on the door “I thought I told you to join me for dinner!”
"Make me!" Honeymaren shouted back.
Elsa paused, her fist still raised to pound on the door again. She had never been talked back to like this before and it caught her off guard.
“Mind your temper...” Olaf coaxed
“Would you join me for dinner... please.” Elsa growled
Honeymaren sighed and rolled her eyes. "Closer, but no. I don't want to." Actually, she was getting peckish, but she had a strong feeling this Mistress had never been told no in her life. She wasn't about to just fall in line.
Olaf flinched “try again...”
“But she’s being so difficult!” Elsa snorted, then turned back to the door, “what can I do to convince you to eat?”
Honeymaren huffed, "I'll eat when I'm good and ready. Not just because you demand it."
Elsa roared in frustration “Well, fine then. Be difficult. Go hungry for all I care.” She turned to Olaf, “if she doesn’t eat with me then she doesn’t eat at all.” And she bounded down the hall, heading for her tower.
Honeymaren flopped back onto the bed sheets a grunt. "Fine!" She shouted even as she heard the Mistress bounding away.
Elsa paced in her room, huffing and growling softly, her eyes drifted to her heart, magically suspended within a glass bell jar. It was almost fully encapsulated in ice, except the bottom tip. She only had six short months left. She curled up on the ground, chin resting on her forearms, closing her eyes as despair overtook her, a soft flurry of snow fell around her. As the years passed, she just slept here more often than not, rather than her own chambers.
Honeymaren wallowed in her room for a while, but finally hunger got the best of her. She crept out of her room and made her way downstairs to try and find the kitchen.
Olaf heard movement that was not the soft padding noise of the little snowgies bouncing around, nor the heavy footfalls of his Mistress. He quickly waddled in the direction of the sound, unsurprised to see Honeymaren “exploring the castle are we?”
Honeymaren snorted softly, "She did say I could go anywhere that wasn't the North Tower... Where's the kitchen?"
“Um... but she also said you weren’t allowed to eat.” Olaf paused “you know what? You inspired me to be a little rebellious, I’ve never seen anyone stand up to her like that. So, come on, I’ll show you the way. It’s been so long since we had a guest that I’m afraid we’re a little rusty on entertaining. I hope you’ll forgive us if it’s not perfect, but we’ll make an experience of it regardless.”
Honeymaren grinned, "That's the spirit!" She followed happily, "Doesn't have to be perfect, I'll eat whatever."
Olaf grinned, feeling lighter than he had in years.
She sat, at Olaf's urging, and let Olaf and the snowgies entertain her with a very elaborate song and dance routine (Olaf did most of the singing, the snowgies... tried) , after which she finally dug in to some delicious food, possibly the best she'd ever tasted. Content, she made her way back upstairs and collapsed into bed, asleep in moments.
Many weeks passed, more often than not, full days went by that Elsa did not see Honeymaren. She knew Olaf was feeding her behind her back, but Honeymaren had made it clear about her stance on taking a meal with her and despite everything, she did not want her to starve. So she allowed it. She also noticed that several of the fireplaces burned brightly, after being unused for years. Cold didn’t bother her, and seeing as Olaf and the snowgies were made of snow and ice, having a fire seemed rather unnecessary.
Elsa sat in front of the main hearth one night, quietly reading a book, her tail twitched in anticipation (even though she had read it several times before) as she read about the daring escape.
Honeymaren headed down to the main den, thinking nothing when she saw the light from the fire. Olaf had been dutifully keeping them lit more often than not, for which she was grateful. She turned the corner and stopped, blinking as she saw the Mistress sitting in front of the fire with, of all things, a book . She watched for a moment, then realized that her being down here meant that the North Tower was vacant. Honeymaren had to admit that the more days passed by, the more the mystery of the North tower called to her. Today, she would answer. She crept up the stairs and followed the halls to the North, passing through the heavy door into a chamber that had been absolutely trashed from top to bottom. Claw marks decorated every wall, curtain, painting, piece of furniture. By the window was a small table, perfectly undisturbed, with something odd floating inside. She stepped closer, looking in wonder at the crystalline thing inside of the glass cover. It looked like a heart. A beating heart.
Elsa finished the chapter and rose on all fours with a big stretch, not realizing how stiff she was from sitting on the floor for so long. She looked around to see if she could catch a glimpse of Honeymaren but she wasn’t counting on it. She sighed and made her way back up to her tower, thinking how she might try to interact with her again. She was literally her only hope of breaking her curse. The girl was beautiful, no doubt, but her back talk and stubbornness made it difficult for Elsa to handle being in close proximity for more than a few minutes before losing her own temper. Could she learn to love her, let alone earn her love in return? How do you learn to love anyone? True love’s kiss was just a thing made up in fairy tales and children’s books. It certainly wasn’t real. She ruffled her fur as she shook the thought from her mind, climbing ever higher.
Elsa stopped at the top of the stairs, looking at her door. Had she left it ajar? She always closed it when she wasn’t there. She nudged the door open further with her shoulder and then froze as she took in the scene of Honeymaren standing there, next to her heart. “What are you doing here?!” She barked loudly “I told you never to come here!”
Honeymaren jumped and took a step back. "I just- I wanted to know what was here. What is this?" She stared at the heart, but she had a feeling she wasn't going to get an answer.
Elsa took another step into the room “it’s none of your concern. Get out... GET OUT!” She screamed, tossing an armoire across the room like it was made of straw. She stood to full height and roared again “GET OUT!” As she thrashed around the room.
Honeymaren ran. She let her legs carry her all the way to the front door and out of the castle. She couldn't stay here another minute, that monster could kill her, would kill her if she stayed. She found Sven stabled just outside and flung herself onto him, "Go, go!" She urged, holding onto him tightly.
Olaf tried to hurry after her shouting “Wait! What are you doing? Where are you going?” Before he was met with a face full of snow that had been kicked up by Sven.
"I'm sorry!" She shouted over her shoulder, shaking her head to herself. "I can't. I can't-"
Olaf looked dejected but nodded “you were our only hope.” He whispered as she disappeared from view. He hurried up to the tower, standing on the threshold. He did not go in there “Uh, Mistress? What happened?”
Elsa was clutching the bell jar, breathing heavily. “She came in here even after I explicitly told her not to!” She grumbled over her shoulder
Olaf tapped his branch-tips together, "Yeah, okay... Well, now she's riding right into the wolf-infested woods so we kinda should probably do something about that or she's gonna get her face eaten."
Elsa snorted “well, it was her choice to leave.”
Olaf hesitated, "Uh huh... but this could be your chance for a big daring rescue?"
Elsa huffed and let go of the glass, padding over to where Olaf stood, her head slightly bowed in quiet shame about her behavior “I doubt she would want to see me. The look of fright in her eyes...”
"If it's between you and the wolves, I'm pretty sure she'd pick you. That's a start, right?" He wiggled his arms out with a hopeful grin.
“Fine. But I don’t find that particularly reassuring...” Elsa brushed past him, more like stepped over him in reality, and made her way down the stairs “are you afraid of me, too, Olaf?”
"I mean, I don't have the capacity to feel pain. Or die. And those are kind of the big drivers of fear, so... No?"
Elsa shook her head, not wanting to engage further in conversation or explain what she meant. She pushed the large front doors open and peered out into the white landscape. She had never left the castle, not even to walk around the grounds. She took a deep breath and stepped forward. She marveled at the crunch of snow under her foot, how her fur blended in perfectly. She thought that if she stripped off her cloak and what remained of her ragged clothes that she could almost be invisible. “Are you sure I should?”
Olaf waddled behind her as fast as his little legs would carry him, "It's your last chance!"
Elsa sighed and took off into the night, following the fresh trail.
Honeymaren had heard the howls as soon as they'd left the castle grounds, but she'd hoped they could outrun them. That quickly turned out to be impossible. The wolves surrounded her and Sven, growling wickedly as they closed in. Honeymaren climbed off the reindeer and grabbed the biggest stick she could find, "Get back!" She shouted, swinging the stick with all her might at the closest wolf. It jumped back, easily avoiding the strike. "It's okay, Sven, it'll be okay-"
Sven snorted and kicked at the wolves. It was his only defense.
Elsa heard the wolves howling in the distance, then saw the footprints in the snow closing in, flanking the trail that she was following. She crested the hill and saw Honeymaren and the reindeer surrounded by no fewer than a dozen hungry wolves, closing in quickly. She roared and immediately sprang to action, launching herself at one as it jumped at Honeymaren, grabbing it out of the air by the neck and hurling it forcefully against a tree. With a sickening snap and low whine the wolf fell to the ground in a slump.
Honeymaren jumped as a flash of white fur streaked into the clearing. One of the wolves lunged at the Mistress, but Honeymaren swung her branch at it, striking it squarely in the face. It backed away and growled, rubbing its face with a paw.
Elsa fought hard, and while she was bigger and stronger than the wolves, they had the numbers and they were small and agile. She managed to take a couple more down but was quickly becoming overwhelmed by their incessant onslaught of attacks. She roared in pain when she felt one sink its teeth deep into her leg, another at her arm. The largest wolf took the opportunity to jump onto her back as she was distracted and bit hard at her shoulder, thankfully missing her neck. She managed to reach around and grab that one, throwing it like she had done its pack mate. With a whine it howled and limped off, the others slowly retreating after it.
Honeymaren looked at the Mistress--no, Elsa. She was bleeding badly in several places, she looked like she was going to collapse. Without hesitating, Honeymaren led Sven over to her, "Climb on." She said firmly.
Elsa looked up at her, her shaking arms were barely able to hold her weight, her back leg was next to useless. She panted, trying to regain her breath, but did as Honeymaren bid, slowly moving to drape her arms over Sven's back, unable to lift herself onto him any more.
Sven swayed a little under the weight, but dutifully started walking.
Elsa closed her eyes, succumbing to exhaustion and the gentle rocking of Sven's movements, even though her back legs were dragging unceremoniously behind her.
Honeymaren led Sven back to the castle, her mind reeling. She'd thought that Elsa had hated her, or something like that, but she'd just risked her life to save her. And frankly, she shouldn't have gone into the North Wing. She'd patch Elsa up and, well, then she'd see what her next move would be.
With Sven's help (and Olaf and the snowgies helping with the doors), she brought Elsa inside and Sven set her down in front of the fireplace. She got a bowl of warm water and a few towels as well as some spirits she found in the kitchen that would work to disinfect the wounds, and she settled down beside Elsa's hulking form, starting with the wounds on her leg. She looked up at her, unsure if she was awake enough to even notice. Still, she gave her a little warning. "This will sting..."
Elsa was barely conscious by the time they got back to the castle, having lost a decent amount of blood, not to mention the physical toll of the fight itself. She faded in and out of consciousness but the next time she came to she felt herself on the solid floor in front of the fire, shuddering at the warmth. She cracked an eye open when she felt a soft hand against her fur "wha... OW!" she roared, trying to flinch away from Honeymaren. “That hurts!”
Honeymaren huffed, "I have to clean your wounds some more, so hold still."
Elsa growled softly but did as Honeymaren commanded. She couldn't afford to let the wounds become infected.
Honeymaren carefully dabbed at the wounds, trying to be as gentle as she could. "... Thank you for saving me." She said after a moment.
"You're welcome." Elsa let her head fall heavily on her uninjured arm, gazing up at Honeymaren. "Promise me you won't try to run away again any time soon?"
Honeymaren looked at Elsa, trying to show sincerity. She never realized how blue her eyes were. They had a depth to them, full of secrets and pain, but carefully guarded by her icy exterior. "I promise." She said softly, looking back down at her hands. She went back to work, cleaning her wounds. After a thought, she added, "Promise me you'll work on your temper?"
"I promise." Elsa watched Honeymaren work, doing her best to not flinch each time she pressed the warm cloth to her wounds. "And I'm... I'm sorry if I frightened you." she spoke quietly.
"You did." Honeymaren answered, carefully tending to her arm next. "... Apology accepted. I'm guessing you haven't been around people in a long time. Can I give you some tips?" She lifted a brow.
Elsa snorted "What gave you that impression? I'm surprised you were able to jump the line of people just clamoring over themselves to meet something like me."
Honeymaren laughed, "Was that... Sarcasm? You can do sarcasm?"
Elsa growled softly, but it wasn't her usual annoyed or angry growl, it was... different. Softer, gentler. "It's been known to happen."
Honeymaren smiled, "Well then, that's a start. And for the record, if you really wanted me to join you for dinner, asking instead of ordering makes a big difference."
"I..." Elsa started to protest but then closed her mouth "I'll work on that."
Honeymaren nodded, satisfied. "Thank you. Sit up, please, I need to get your back next."
Elsa shook her fur a little but did as Honeymaren had asked, propping herself up into a sitting position, as much as her legs would allow. It was more like a relaxed lounging position with her leaning on her elbow "Is this enough? I can't move much more than this."
"This works." She nodded, "It'll sting, but after this we'll be done for now." Honeymaren dabbed at her wounds, trying to be as careful as possible.
Elsa groaned and dug her claws into the wood floor as she tried to breathe through the pain. The wound was deeper than the ones on her leg and arm. The muscle was thicker from use since she tended to bear most of her weight on her arms rather than back legs as she walked.
"You're doing great." Honeymaren coaxed, "Almost done." She dabbed at the last of the wounds on her back, then gently trimmed away some of the fur around them so that they wouldn't get stuck in them. "There. I'll keep an eye on them over the next couple days to make sure they heal cleanly."
"Thank you." Elsa laid back on the ground, curling herself into a crescent shape. She'd have to stay here, as she did not have the strength left to stand and Honeymaren definitely wouldn't be able to carry her up the stairs to her chambers.
Olaf had been watching the interaction from a distance, waiting for the right moment to wheel out a little cart with two bowls of hot soup. Now seemed as good a time as any. He pushed the cart over to Honeymaren "I thought you might be hungry."
Honeymaren smiled, "Thank you, Olaf." She took a bowl and set it on front of Elsa first, then grabbed one for herself. "Eat up, at least a little."
Elsa raised her head and sniffed the air, her stomach rumbling loudly. The side of her lip curled up in what might have been the smallest hint of a smile, her first one in 16 years. "Thank you." she reached over with her massive paw and pulled the bowl closer to her mouth, her long tongue lapping up the warm broth as a cat might drink from a saucer of milk. She closed her eyes as she enjoyed her meal.
Honeymaren watched her with an amused smile. She picked up her spoon, but that felt too formal. She tossed it back to Olaf and tipped the bowl to her lips, drinking from the edge.
Elsa finished off her soup, opening her eyes only when she felt her tongue hitting the warm ceramic bottom, verifying the bowl was empty. She lowered her head onto her forearms again and closed her eyes "I think I shall rest now. Thank you for tending to my injuries... Honeymaren." she spoke the girl's name like a whisper, it was the first time she had actually acknowledged that Honeymaren had a name at all.
Honeymaren hadn't even been sure Elsa knew her name until now. She smiled to herself, "I'll be close by, Elsa." She assured her, "Sleep well."
A low rumble emitted from deep in Elsa's chest when she heard her name spoken aloud. No one had said that word to her in 16 years, she had almost forgotten it existed. Olaf only ever referred to her as Mistress, at least to her face. She fell into a deep sleep in front of the fire, her tail twitching slightly as she dreamed.
Elsa didn't move from her spot on the floor in front of the grand hearth for several days. She slept most of the time, allowing her wounds the rest they needed to heal, and was sometimes visited by Honeymaren who would come by to switch out the bandages. But otherwise she was alone and bored beyond belief. She only had the one book she had been reading before Honeymaren's visit to the North Tower, but she read it over and over for something to pass the time. Secretly she hoped that Honeymaren would come join her one day, but she wasn't counting on it.
Honeymaren checked on Elsa several times a day, making sure her wounds were healing properly as well as making sure she got something to eat (Olaf was helpful in that, too). It was nearly a week before she realized Elsa had been reading the same book over and over. She sat herself down beside her by the fire one day, "Would you like me to bring you some other books to read, or do you just like this one that much?"
Elsa sat up, a little surprised to hear Honeymaren. She set the book down and looked down at Honeymaren. It wasn’t her usual time for changing her bandages. “I would like that, thank you.” She slid the book over to her “It is a good one... have you read it?”
Honeymaren took the book, looking over it thoughtfully. "I haven't... Where do you keep your books? I can go get more for you."
“Well, I tend to keep them where books belong... in the library. I’m surprised you haven’t found it with all your exploring.” Elsa offered her a small side grin.
"You have an entire library?" Honeymaren's eyes widened.
“Yes. Do you like to read?” Elsa watched her intently.
Honeymaren nodded, "More than I should..."
“Why do you say it like that? It almost sounds like you wanting to read is a bad thing. Are women not allowed to read?” Elsa rumbled.
"It's... Frowned upon." She admitted with a shake of her head. "Back in the village, at least."
“Your village sounds horrible.” Elsa shook her mane in annoyance at the small minded way of thinking. “What’s it like now? Out there?”
"Well, the town is... Lacking in many ways, but the bigger cities are different. We lived a more nomadic lifestyle in the Northuldran territory when we were younger. It was amazing, it’s where Ryder and I learned to herd reindeer... But when the plague struck, our parents brought us here to Arendelle. We spent time in the capital city for a time, which was great, but moved back to a smaller town in the outskirts. It was like a mix of life in Northuldra and the big city. Then, they died, too and it was just me and Ryder."
Elsa tilted her head as she listened, she had read many books on geography, granted they were sorely out of date and she was certain that territorial boundaries and cities had changed much since her isolation “how long ago was that?”
Honeymaren thought for a moment, "About twelve years ago."
Elsa nodded “I see... what did you do with your days?”
"Read whatever books I could find. There weren't many... I spent time with Ryder, with the reindeer, they made better company than anyone in town, honestly... Then there was Hans to avoid." She shook her head.
“You have reindeer? I mean, I know you do, I saw the one when you took off on, and I assume how you got me back... but others?” Elsa picked up on the change in Honeymaren’s voice. “And who is this Hans?”
"Oh, right. Context."She chuckled, "Yes, we have a small herd of reindeer. Hans is... Awful. Just awful . He's the mayor of the town and he decided that I would be his bride, and that I had no say in it."
“He sounds like he needs to be put in his place. And what do you want?”
Honeymaren chuckled, "I'd like to see that... Love to do it myself. Oh, if we could get him in the stocks it would make my day! But I'd just rather not see him again. Ever." She sighed, "What do I want? That's... A tough question. I want Ryder to be happy. Whatever that means for him. I want to never see Hans again. I want to explore and see more of the world, I want... Freedom." She sighed, wrapping her arms around her knees as she looked into the fire.
Elsa sighed, ignoring the pang of guilt when Honeymaren said she wanted freedom “I’m sorry. You must miss him terribly.”
Honeymaren nodded, "It's just been me and him for so long. I thought he depended on me, but I guess I needed him in a way, too."
Elsa thought a moment “would it help if you could write to him?”
Honeymaren brightened, looking at Elsa hopefully. "I... You'd allow that? Yes. Yes, that would be amazing."
Elsa nodded “I don’t want you to feel cut off from the ones you love. I mean, he obviously can’t come back, of course. Despite whatever you might think of me, I do want you to be happy here.”
Honeymaren smiled gently. It was... Something. "Honestly, he'd probably come back and try and storm the castle with a herd of reindeer if he didn't hear from me, so this is the best way to make sure he doesn't come back."
Elsa nodded “the raven roost is in the West Tower, you can send as many messages to Ryder as you want.”
Honeymaren nearly reached out to hug her, but she remembered her wounds and pulled her arms back with a shy smile, "Thanks."
Elsa flinched away a little at the gesture, she had allowed Honeymaren to touch her out of necessity of tending her injuries, but she was not about to let her touch her otherwise “I think I have enough strength to show you to the library.” She stood, wincing slightly at the movement. “Would you like me to take you?”
"That would be wonderful. Do you want a cane or something? I think I saw one at the front door..."
“I appreciate the concern. I will be fine.” Elsa stretched gingerly, extending her legs backward one at a time. “Right this way.” She led Honeymaren down the corridor toward the southern wing. It was slow going and she walked with a noticeable limp but eventually they reached the destination. She pushed the two heavy and ornately decorated doors open to reveal a giant library, full to the brim with books of all sizes. She stood back to allow Honeymaren to enter first.
Honeymaren watched her stretch with a little smile. She was kind of like a cat... As very big, very deadly cat. She followed her down the hall, and her jaw dropped when she opened the door to the library. Her feet took her inside before she even realized she'd walked through the door, her eyes scanned bookcase after bookcase after bookcase, wall to wall to ceiling of nothing but books. She covered her mouth with her hands, overwhelmed. "This is... Oh my spirits."
Elsa grinned broadly at Honeymaren’s reaction, her enthusiasm was infectious “you like it?”
"I love it! I don't know if I could ever finish all of them..." She couldn't contain her grin, "But I sure want to try."
“Well, consider it yours then.” Elsa walked in, scanning the shelves. “What kinds of books do you like to read? I’ve organized them by topics.”
Honeymaren blinked at Elsa, surprised. "Oh... Wow. Well, I like anything that takes me into another world... Any suggestions?"
Elsa nodded and walked over to a wide bookcase, grabbing down a worn book “try this one. It’s about an adventurer in a far away land. This whole case is more fantasy and adventure.”
Honeymaren took the book with a quiet reverence, nodding slowly. She smiled, "Thank you." She was still a prisoner here, but... Maybe she still could be happy. It was better than being Hans' wife, for sure. That was a different kind of prison. Worse, for certain.
Elsa quietly took a book off the shelf “well, I’ll just leave you to your thoughts then.”
Honeymaren nodded, "Thank you." She spent some time picking out a few books that interested her, then made her way back to her room in the East tower to write a letter to Ryder.
My baby brother,
I'm alright, first of all. I'm sure your planning same fantastic rescue, but let me assure you that it's not necessary. Elsa has begun treating me like her guest rather that her prisoner, she's given me the run of the castle as well as an entire library, and I'm free to write to you any time I please. Sven is enjoying the fields around the castle, he's safe and well, as am I.
I miss you, brother, please write and tell me how you are.
Elsa made her way back to her personal chambers, her book in hand. It was closer than the tower and her strength was starting to fail her. She pushed the door open with a deep sigh. Part of her wanted to stay in the library with Honeymaren, but she could tell that she made her uncomfortable.
Honeymaren sent off the raven with its letter, hoping she would hear back from Ryder soon. She made her way into the main foyer and curled up by the fire to begin reading. Elsa would need her rest, but she'd bring her up dinner later to check on her.
Elsa read for a little while but ended up falling asleep, slightly curled up on the bed.
Honeymaren read through the first third of the book before she realized it had grown dark outside. She slipped a piece of paper between the pages to hold her spot and headed for the kitchen, whipping up a simple soup, then asked Olaf to lead her to Elsa's room. She'd never been there, and she felt a little less intrusive with Olaf at her side.
Olaf led her up to the north corridor but turned away from the stairs leading to the tower. He gently knocked on the door. Despite his hands being made of twigs he was able to make a decently loud sound “Mistress? Your dinner.”
Elsa groaned softly to herself “come in, Olaf.” She didn’t bother opening her eyes.
Honeymaren stepped inside, holding a tray with two bowls of soup, taking a moment to look around. This room was kept in immaculate shape, nothing seemed out of place or ruined, a complete opposite of the Tower. "I thought onion soup might sound good... And I hope you don't mind, I thought I'd eat with you."
Elsa’s eyes shot open when she heard Honeymaren there “oh... Honeymaren. Right, no issue... thank you.” She stammered, her brain still fuzzy with sleepiness.
Honeymaren smiled and set the tray on the bed in front of her, taking her own bowl off of it and sitting in a chair near the bed. She sipped from the bowl, just enjoying the company.
Elsa sat up and scooted herself over toward the tray. She watched the way Honeymaren held the bowl and decided she might try it too, lapping up her soup like usual suddenly seemed inappropriate. She carefully picked up the bowl in her clawed hands and lifted it to her mouth, sipping carefully. She took several big gulps before setting the bowl down. She felt a tightness in her chest, but it wasn’t sad or angry. She wasn’t sure what it was. Her tail twitched nervously. She was still having a hard time believing that Honeymaren was there voluntarily.
Honeymaren noticed Elsa copying her way of drinking and smiled to herself, but she didn't stare. Honestly, she hadn't been bothered by the way Elsa ate, but it was kind of... Sweet. Once she finished her soup, she set the bowl aside. "I'm enjoying the book you suggested."
“I’m glad.” Elsa noticed Olaf moving his arms behind Honeymaren’s back, trying to coax her to have a conversation with Honeymaren “the soup was very good, thank you for bringing it. I probably would have slept through supper.”
Honeymaren nodded "It was no problem. So… How many of the books in the library have you read? Surely not all of them. Right?"
Elsa shook her head “no, not all of them. Some are written in Greek.”
Honeymaren snickered. "That was a joke! Look at you go." She winked at her.
Elsa felt that same jolt in her chest. Maybe she was getting sick? “perhaps we could go for a walk sometime?” She didn’t want to seem too hopeful or desperate for company. And she figured that Honeymaren would require an explanation for the invitation because there was no way she would accept because she actually wanted her company “it might help me heal and strengthen my muscles.”
"That sounds like a great idea. We can take Sven, just in case you need a little help. I know he'd like it." She smiled, "Tomorrow?"
Elsa gulped, she hadn’t expected Honeymaren to actually accept the invitation. “That sounds nice.” She managed, her curved ears twitched nervously.
Honeymaren noted her little nervous twitches, but she wasn't sure what it meant. "So, what's your favorite book?"
“King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot.”
"Oh?" She smiled, "What do you like about it?"
“Daring adventures and missions...” Elsa started to explain before she was suddenly interrupted by Honeymaren.
"And it's a romance, as I recall."
Elsa grumbled quietly "Yeah... okay... I might be a heartless beast but I still enjoy it."
Honeymaren frowned, "You're not a heartless beast."
Elsa twitched, trying not to get frustrated "I've seen my reflection..."
"No… Hans is a heartless beast. You're... Just a little... Furrier than most."
Elsa snorted "It's horrible in spring... can you imagine how much I shed?" She closed her eyes and shook her head a little "How can you believe that? You hardly know me."
Honeymaren smirked, "Need some help brushing it out? And honestly, I know enough about you to know that you're miles above Hans, even if you got off to a rocky start..."
"He must be a real piece of work if that's your assessment of me." Elsa shuddered.
"He is, but even if we weren't comparing you with anyone, my assessment still stands. You're not a bad person, Elsa. You've just... Had a shit hand dealt to you. And from what I can tell, you never really had anyone to help you navigate life, you know?"
Elsa shifted away from Honeymaren, turning her back to her "You don’t have to try to ease my ego. I know what I am. I’m a monster. I deserve this... you should stay away from me, it's better this way. Thank you for the soup and company."
Honeymaren sighed, she could tell she'd gone too far. "Alright. But I'm holding you to that walk tomorrow." She smiled a little and got up, taking the dishes with her.
"I won't forget." Elsa spoke quietly, still facing the window.
Honeymaren left her to her thoughts. She'd gotten somewhere with her, a little progress, a little more understanding. She quietly wondered what could have possibly happened in the past to have this affect on her and cause her to have such a negative self image.
In the morning, she raided the pantry (that magically restocked itself every night without fail) and made a full, meaty breakfast, bringing it up to Elsa. "Hungry?" She called out from in front of her door.
Elsa lifted her head. She was still curled into a tight ball, just as she had been the night before. Her eyes were still heavy and swollen from the tears that she had shed as she fell asleep. She couldn't remember the last time she cried like that. In the beginning she had cried herself to sleep every night, but as time went on she had pushed those feelings deep down somewhere. Why were they resurfacing now? She firmly decided that she would not lay her burdens on Honeymaren. She rubbed her face with a giant paw of a hand before responding. "Yes, come in, Honeymaren." her throat was dry and her voice gravelly, which was not far from the usual tone. Her voice had changed so much since her transformation. It used to be light, soft, and airy. As a child she was often told she had the voice of an angel, though that could have just been the flattery that came with being a princess.
Honeymaren stepped inside, frowning at how unwell she sounded. "Are you feeling ill? You don't sound so good." She set the tray beside Elsa's bed, sitting on the edge of it.
"I'm fine, thank you. I just... didn't sleep well." Elsa hedged, it wasn't an outright lie at least... she deflected and sniffed the tray "It smells good, what is it?"
"Bacon and eggs and sausage! I even made some toast." She grinned, "Butter and jam available on the side. Wasn't sure how you liked your toast."
"Did you make this? It seems very different from what the snowgies usually send up." Elsa nodded appreciatively as she surveyed the ensemble, reaching for a strip of bacon.
Honeymaren chuckled. "I enjoy cooking. And you have so many things to choose from, I've never had such a big pantry!"
"You're very talented." Elsa murmured through a bite of bacon. "I've never been good at cooking. Olaf doesn’t even eat and he told me it’s better I stay out of the kitchen."
"Wow, I’ll keep that in mind..." Honeymaren smiled softly. "I like doing it. It keeps me busy."
"What else did you do... not necessarily to keep yourself busy, but for fun?"
Honeymaren chuckled, "Well, the books are a big part of it, I saw you had an archery range out back, I was thinking of giving it a shot..."
"Pun intended?" Elsa snorted
Honeymaren grinned, "Very intended."
Elsa laughed gently, a deep rumble in her chest. She couldn't help it. In the months that Honeymaren had been in the castle, she found herself laughing like this and offering half-grins more often, though she hadn't outright smiled yet, she didn't want to scare her with her fangs.
Honeymaren grinned. She loved hearing her laugh in her own way. "Do you know anything about archery? I was thinking you could give me some pointers. "
Elsa rolled her eyes "I'm not sure I'm your target audience for your jokes, you'd better try with Olaf. I'm sure you'd have him absolutely quivering with laughter." she deadpanned her response.
Honeymaren burst out laughing. "That was... Wow, you've got me beat."
"I practice in the mirror." Elsa chuckled softly.
"Clearly I need to step up, or I'll keep getting the shaft on these joke-offs."
Elsa was struggling to keep herself from bursting out in outright laughter. "To answer your question, I don't care much for archery anymore. Too many drawbacks."
Honeymaren snickered, "Okay, that was fantastic. You win."
"I aim to please."
"Then bullseye." Honeymaren winked with a grin.
Elsa rumbled softly and picked up another sausage on the tip of a long curved claw and ate it in one bite. "I wouldn't mind watching you practice, if you wanted an audience. The range has been neglected for far too long. I used to enjoy it when I was younger."
Honeymaren smiled, wondering what that meant: had she not always been like this? "I would like the company. And any tips you do remember. I was serious about that."
"Really? You would want my company?" Elsa perked up, she was truly surprised by that response.
Honeymaren nodded, "All I know is you pull back the string and let it go. It'll be entertaining to watch, at the very least."
Elsa shook her head "There's much more to it than that. I'd be happy to offer suggestions if you like."
Honeymaren smiled, "Good. We'll take our walk, and then hit the archery range."
Elsa nodded, taking a piece of toast next. "Have you gotten enough breakfast?"
Honeymaren nodded and smiled, offering the rest of her plate.
Elsa quickly made short work of the rest of the food "It's nice to be able to put down solid food again. Thank you again. For taking such good care of me... I don't deserve your kindness."
Honeymaren shook her head, "You've already proven to me that you do. You saved my life. And you've let me contact Ryder. That's not nothing."
Elsa looked away, not willing to say what was actually on her mind. "I might change before our walk and perhaps you would like some time to yourself. Shall I meet you in the ballroom in an hour?"
Honeymaren blinked, "Oh, sure. I'll see you then." She got to her feet and took the tray back down to the kitchen, then busied herself getting into some clothes that seemed better fit for archery.
Elsa waited until Honeymaren had left before hurrying over to her wardrobe, trying to find something more decent to wear. Some of the snowgies had made her various outfits for something to pass the time but she hadn't worn any of them, never really had a reason to. Besides, she was also completely covered in hair, it's not like anything was on display if she opted to go without clothes. She pulled out a simple blue tunic and tanned leather breeches. She at least wanted to make an effort, and she decided she would arrange a time with the snowgies to help her properly bathe and brush out her fur. Maybe even a haircut. But that was pushing it. Baby steps. She didn't want to come across as trying too hard.
Honeymaren settled on some brown trousers and a loose tan shirt, as well as some boots. All of it gave her plenty of room to move around in, so she ought to be fully prepared. She headed to the ballroom to wait.
Once she was satisfied with her appearance (or as much as she could be in this form) Elsa made her way down to the ballroom to meet Honeymaren, a little surprised to see her there already. "I hope I did not keep you waiting."
Honeymaren looked up as she entered, taken a little aback by the fact that she seemed to have dressed for the occasion. She smiled and toyed with her long braid, "Not at all. Just got here."
Elsa rumbled softly in her chest "Shall we?" she led the way out of the ballroom and across the large open foyer to the main doors, holding them open for Honeymaren to pass through. She hesitated a little at the front door, but then took a deep breath and stepped outside.
Honeymaren stepped outside, not used to having doors held open for her like this. She looked around outside, admiring the serenity of the snow-covered landscape. "Is it always winter here?"
Elsa nodded "It gets a little less bitter in the spring and summer, but the actual winter can be downright brutal. The snowgies will make you some more winter appropriate attire, if you want to keep all your fingers and toes." It was absolutely still and silent, save for the heavy crunching of Elsa's footfalls. "I'll admit the snow has gone many years without being disturbed."
Honeymaren nodded, "I would prefer to keep all of my appendages." She chuckled lightly, walking beside her. "Well, why don't we disturb it a little?" She smirked, grabbing a hunk of snow off of a railing and balling it up in her hands. She backed away a few steps and launched it at Elsa.
Elsa had not been expecting the snowball and it caught her squarely on the side of the head "Oh, you think this is a good idea? Challenging the Queen of Snow and Ice to a snowball fight?" she chuckled and started scooping a giant snowball between her large hands. She didn't want to use her powers just yet, and not like she was in control of them now. Maybe one day she would tell Honeymaren, but the less she knew the better right now.
Honeymaren squealed and darted behind a tree to scoop up more ammo of her own. She rolled up a tight ball and flung it at her, grinning wide.
Elsa smirked when she saw where Honeymaren was standing. Instead of throwing the snowball at her, she hurled it hard at the branches above, knocking down a cascade of snow on top of her head. She roared with laughter as she saw Honeymaren emerge doing a funny little dance to try to get the snow out of her clothes. She couldn't stop herself from smiling, actually smiling, for the first time in what seemed like forever.
Honeymaren shook as much of the snow out of her clothes as she could, laughing as she went. "Touche. I think we'll call this a draw."
Elsa caught her breath and quickly regained her composure, building up her walls again "Fine... but if you ever want a rematch, you know where to find me."
Honeymaren chuckled, but she had to admit she was a little disappointed to see Elsa withdraw again. "Or... We could settle the score right now."
"Perhaps you were right for calling it a draw today, though I would very much like to do this again, I do not think it wise to overexert myself." Elsa responded simply, not necessarily dismissing the idea. Internally she was a mess of struggles. That strange clenching feeling in her chest had returned, which she found extremely annoying and becoming more frequent. "There's a sculpture garden around the corner, and there used to be a hedge maze, but sadly the plants did not survive the eternal winter and it's much less challenging when you can see through the bare branches."
Honeymaren stepped back over to her side with a smile, "I'd love to see it."
Elsa nodded and led Honeymaren along the snow-covered path that she recalled from memory. "I used to come out here when I was younger. But this is only the second time I've stepped out of the castle in many years."
Honeymaren looked up at her, surprised by that. "Why is that?"
Elsa paused a moment, thinking. "I... had no reason to come outside."
Honeymaren nodded slowly. She got the feeling that Elsa didn't want to talk much about her past, but she couldn't deny her curiosity. "Have you always lived here?"
"Yes. Though as a child did get to travel. I have been to some of the places you mentioned living and many others." Elsa sat down on a bench, a little awkward as she tried to make enough room for Honeymaren if she wanted to sit, too.
Honeymaren sat beside her, fighting the temptation to touch her soft-looking hand. "What is your favorite place you've been?"
"I liked Corona, actually. It was big but had a simplicity to it. I never traveled north enough to visit Northuldra, but I'm very sad to hear what happened to it." Elsa held her breath when she saw Honeymaren take a seat.
Honeymaren nodded, "It was awful... I'm sure they're rebuilding now, but I'm not sure I'd want to go back. Too many frightful memories."
Elsa grumbled in agreement "I think I understand." She looked away "The other day you mentioned you wanted to see the world. Where would you go if you could go anywhere?"
Honeymaren smiled at the thought. "Somewhere new. Somewhere I've never even heard of. Somewhere with sun and sand and birds..."
Elsa chuckled "I can't take you there in person, but perhaps I can help you visit there in your imagination. I know just the book that would transport you there. About a faraway place that matches that description, called Agrabah..."
Honeymaren grinned, "That sounds exciting!"
Elsa nodded "I'll bring it to you tonight. Um... perhaps, would you like to have dinner with me later? I mean, I would understand if you wanted space, I just, I am glad to spend some time with you. I don't want to assume anything or make you feel obligated to be around me." Damn this stupid clenching in my chest
Honeymaren's heart began to pound, but she couldn't truly say why. "Yes, I would love to." She smiled.
"You would? What would you like to eat?" Elsa perked up instantly, eyes shining a little.
"Oh, um... Anything really. Maybe fish? I love fish..." She blushed, enchanted by the way Elsa's eyes lit up.
"Fish... yes, of course." Elsa nodded, her lip curling in a slight closed-mouth smile.
"Chocolate for dessert?" She added with a smile, "What do you like? I want you to have something you like too."
"I've got simple tastes now." Elsa said simply "I haven't really had a reason to break from that habit, but perhaps it is time for a change. I'm sure Olaf and the snowgies would love to put something together."
"I wouldn't mind cooking, but it might be nice to have them cook this time..." She admitted.
"Thank you, I would like to do this for you. And maybe you could show me some of your recipes in exchange for archery?"
Honeymaren smiled, "I think that's fair. Speaking of archery, why don't we jump in? I'm eager to learn!"
Elsa nodded and slowly stood up, stretching out her injured leg a moment before taking a step forward. "Of course." She led the way back to the range, "First we need to start by finding you a bow that fits your grip and has the proper size, weight, and tension for your body." she pushed open the door to the armory to reveal a large display of various weapons, including a whole wall of bows "Try picking each one up, it should feel comfortable in your hand."
Honeymaren reached for the bow right in front of her. She took it in her hand, but it felt heavy, awkward. She put it back, then reached for one with dark wood, smiling a bit as she held it. "This one feels nice..." She set it aside and tried a few others, but came back to the dark wood bow, "This one, I think."
Elsa smiled softly "Wise choice. That one was mine. Well, I mean, technically they were all mine... but that was my favorite. I'm glad it will finally be used again. Come with me." She grabbed a quiver of arrows on the way out.
Honeymaren held the bow with a bit more reverence. She was sure now. Elsa had been physically human once. Long ago, it seemed. She followed her out to the shooting range, complete with snow covered targets at the far end.
Elsa sat up on her haunches, her long tail curled around her "So, there's a little more than just, what did you say... "pull back the bowstring and let it go?' First, let's start with the grip. Hold the bow out in your dominant hand, your bow arm. Your elbow should point at an outward and slightly downward angle away from the bow. When correctly positioned, there will be a slight bend at the elbow. Once your elbow is right, your hand will naturally position itself properly, with the thumb at roughly a 45-degree angle." Elsa explained patiently "Why don't you try?"
Honeymaren followed her instruction, holding out the bow in her right hand. She tried to remember all of the details, putting her thumb at an angle. "How's this?"
"Good, very close." Elsa stood up and padded over to her, reaching her hand out to fix Honeymaren's positioning, barely brushing her shoulder, then quickly withdrawing it "I'm sorry... I should have asked."
Honeymaren felt her brief, brief touch and turned to look at her, "No, it's alright." She smiled, reassuring her.
Elsa bowed her head "Is it okay if I adjust your arm's position?"
Honeymaren nodded, "Go ahead."
Elsa carefully reached out, minding her long claws, raising Honeymaren's elbow slightly. "Perfect." she quickly retreated back to where she had been sitting, a strange fluttering in her chest. "Now for your feet. The stance is the foundation of your shot. Imagine the line between you and the target. You position your feet along that line, shoulder width apart. Stand up straight and rotate your chin over so it looks down the line directly over your shoulder and down your bow arm. Rotate your hips so they are tucked or rolled under your upper body so as to flatten your lower back. Lower your chest and ribs downward toward your stomach. Push your shoulders downward."
Honeymaren listened and tried to do as Elsa had said, but there were so many things to think about, and the only thing that seemed to stick in her mind was Elsa's touch. She shifted her stance, but it didn't quite feel right. "Like this?"
Elsa shook her head and approached her again, "Try rotating your hips a little more."
Honeymaren moved her hips one way, then the other. "Which way?"
Elsa chuckled "The other way, you're trying to stand directly over your shot line. Imagine it's a six-inch wide wall, try to fit inside that wall."
Honeymaren nodded and readjusted. "You weren't kidding, there's a lot more that goes into this than I realized."
Elsa nodded approvingly "It takes years of practice to master, but you're doing amazingly." She handed over an arrow. "Most people just want to go straight to shooting the arrows, but if you do not remain mentally focused on the basic archery stance, then the purpose of practicing these exercises is pointless. With each arrow you shoot, focus on each individual step of the basic archery stance."
Honeymaren nodded and took the arrow, "Okay... So I can shoot now?" She chuckled.
"Yes. Draw the arrow back slowly. When at full draw, the bowstring should touch both your jawline and your nose, making a line that intercepts the corner of your mouth. Using these anchor points will result in more consistent shots. Steady your breathing and release the arrow on the exhale."
Honeymaren followed her instructions, pulling the arrow back (which was much harder than she thought) and bringing it to her lips and nose. The tension seemed to be growing, desperate for release, and she kept her eyes on the target and let it fly.
Elsa watched Honeymaren intently, already able to tell that the arrow would go wide. "It's got a lot of power, with practice you'll learn to tame it." She handed her another arrow "Try again."
Honeymaren huffed as her arrow hit the dirt, not even close to the target. She took the next arrow, this time trying to remember to keep her posture the way that Elsa had described. She drew back, then released again. This time, the arrow struck the target and stayed there. She grinned and jumped in place. "Yes!!"
Elsa smiled softly as Honeymaren did a little happy dance. She handed Honeymaren the quiver before quietly padding off, returning a moment later with a bow of her own. This one was significantly bigger and had an unforgiving strength to it, but she knew that she wouldn't break it at least.
Honeymaren took the quiver, watching as Elsa returned with a much bigger bow. "Oh! Yes, show me how you do it."
Elsa smirked “it’s been many years since I’ve shot a bow.” She took up her position and shot. She breathed a quick sigh of relief to see the arrow in the red center. Not perfect but not bad.
Honeymaren watched in awe, "You make it look so easy." She chuckled, notching herself another arrow. Only one way to get better.
“As I said, years of practice. They used to have to pull me off the field, kicking and screaming all the way.” Elsa snorted at the memory. “Thank you for suggesting this... I almost feel..” her voice trailed off. “Human” was the word she couldn’t bring herself to say.
Honeymaren let loose, then looked at Elsa, not even bothering to see where her arrow landed. "... You weren't always like this, were you?" She asked softly.
“No,” she spoke definitively as if it weren’t up for discussion but maybe she needed someone else to hear it. She sat back on her haunches and set the bow down, turning to look at Honeymaren “When I was a little girl, I was cursed so that my exterior matches what’s on the inside.” She shook her head and sighed, “can we talk about something else, please? It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with further.”
Honeymaren nodded, "Of course. I don't mean to pry." She thought a moment, "Have you ever done archery on horseback? I wonder how Sven would do if I tried..."
"All right, feisty pants, I applaud your enthusiasm but let's start with the basics and work up from there. A mount needs to be trained early on to bear an archer, so Sven probably isn't the best option there." Elsa was grateful that Honeymaren wasn't pressing her further.
Honeymaren chuckled, "Figured that might be asking too much..." In truth, she was grateful that Elsa had shared as much as she did. It helped her understand her a little better. Still, she wouldn't pry.
Elsa enjoyed spending time outside, she hadn't realized how stuffy it was in the castle, though she only took a few more shots with the bow, her arm was starting to ache fiercely. But she enjoyed watching Honeymaren practice, she was so eager and determined. She could get used to this. Well, at least for the next few months. She had no idea what would happen when her birthday passed. But that was for another day, right now she was just happy in the moment. Happy she thought quietly, trying to remember the last time she felt this way.
Honeymaren fired off a final arrow and dropped her arms to her sides, both trembling. "No bullseye today, but I guess that just means we keep at it, huh?" She smiled and headed over to put the bow and quiver away.
"You did amazingly well for your first time." Elsa stood up "With a little practice each day you'll be a master in no time."
Honeymaren grinned, "Thanks! I've got a good teacher."
Elsa smirked "You give me too much credit, I just showed you the basics. What makes someone good at archery, or anything for that matter, is determination and drive, it's a strength found on the inside."
"Well, it sounds like that's a trait we both share." She smiled back.
Elsa clenched her jaw "I'm just stubborn." She led the way back toward the castle "I had fun this afternoon. Thank you."
Olaf was beaming when he saw the two of them walking back toward the castle. He waved his twig arms at them "Hello! Did you have a good afternoon? Are you hungry?"
Elsa chuckled quietly at him "Yes, could you and the snowgies prepare dinner? Fish, please. And set the table for two."
"And chocolate for dessert!" Honeymaren added with a smile.
Olaf grinned "We'd be happy to!" He turned around and happily waddled back into the castle, calling out to the snowgies.
"Well, I guess we should just leave them to it." Elsa snorted as she watched the little snowman walking away. "I think I need to lie down and rest for a bit after today's activities. I'll see you for dinner."
Honeymaren nodded, "I'll see you at dinner. Thanks for the lessons." She smiled to herself and made her way back to her room. She wanted to dress up tonight, to have a little fun. To show Elsa that she was company worth getting dressed up for.
By the time dinner came around, Honeymaren had picked out an ivory dress from the immense closet, and it happened to fit like a glove. She found shoes, some jewelry, even a set of matching gloves, and some of the snowgies helped her get her hair just right, braided in a crown on her head and then loose down her back.
Elsa took the opportunity to have some of the snowgies help her with the hygiene checklist she had developed earlier that day. She had forgotten how good it felt to take a proper bath and have her fur brushed out after. When she was finally dry, she put on a fresh outfit of varying shades of blue fabrics and eagerly made her way down to the dining room. Honeymaren hadn't arrived yet, so she took the opportunity to stoke the fire for something to do, standing and staring at the flames while she waited, feeling warmer than she had in years.
Honeymaren finally made her way down to the dining room, feeling suddenly worried that she'd overdressed. She peeked in and smiled, stepping fully into the room when she saw how Elsa had dressed up.
Elsa heard movement behind her and turned, freezing in place a moment when she saw how beautiful Honeymaren looked. A light flurry of snow formed around her as her brain misfired a few seconds, but she quickly got herself back under control and dissipated the flurry before it grew. "You look lovely this evening."
Honeymaren blushed and chuckled, "Wait, did you just... Flurry?"
Elsa looked at the ground "I'm sorry you had to see that. I can't always control it."
Honeymaren stepped over to her with a soft smile, "I think it's charming... And you look very nice, too, by the way."
Elsa rumbled "Thank you... on both accounts." She walked over and pulled out Honeymaren's chair before taking her own on the other end of the long table. She gazed into the fire quietly a moment before speaking again "When I was younger, I used to have much more control, could bend the ice to my will... but ever since the curse... I just create winter."
Honeymaren sat, listening intently. "You've always had magic?"
Elsa nodded, looking back at Honeymaren "Just another way I'm unnatural."
Honeymaren shook her head, "Just another way you're unique. I think it's interesting."
Elsa shook her head softly "I am still having a hard time believing you are so accepting of me."
Honeymaren smiled at her, "Then I'll have to keep telling you that, won't I?"
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Elsa furrowed her brow "I don't deserve it."
"I feel like I'm starting to understand you more," she shrugged, "And I don't think you're the monster you seem convinced that you are."
Elsa scoffed quietly "when you've been alone as long as I have, it's hard not to think that way. You can't imagine what growing up here was like... what it was like as a teenager, dealing with all those changes alone. I deserve this fate." Elsa turned away "I apologize, this isn't exactly uplifting dinner talk."
"It's okay. I'd rather get to know you." She added, "What did you do that makes you think you're such a monster? Well, aside from recent things..."
"I... maybe I'll tell you another time. I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about that yet." Elsa admitted quietly. Thankfully the silence was interrupted by Olaf coming in with a cart of food.
Honeymaren nodded, "As you wish." She smiled as she smelled the food coming in, "That smells great, Olaf."
Olaf beamed and slid the plates over to them and tapped his carrot nose "I'm glad you think so! I wish I could smell sometimes..."
Honeymaren chuckled and picked up her fork. "Thank the snowgies for us, too."
"Oh, I will! Yell if you need anything else!" Olaf turned and pushed the cart back toward the kitchen.
"Yes, thank you, Olaf." Elsa smiled gently at him and picked up her fork as well. It felt strange in her hand but she did her best to hold it. She held it in her fist, the tines were barely distinguishable from her fur.
Honeymaren removed the silver cover on her plate and grinned as she looked at the spread. Fresh fish with a tantalizing glaze, mashed potatoes, steamed corn... "This is amazing..."
Elsa grinned did the same "They really outdid themselves!" she carefully dug her fork in, trying to scoop some of the fish onto the small tines. It was much harder than she had imagined and was tempted to just pick up the filet with her hands. But eventually she was able to take a bite.
Honeymaren ate happily, devouring every morsel on her plate in record time. "That was so delicious..."
"All that archery really worked up your appetite." Elsa observed and offered a close lipped smile.
Honeymaren blushed and nodded, "Apparently..."
"Don't be embarrassed. It's much more physically demanding than it looks, as I think you discovered. I'm glad you enjoyed your meal. Did you get enough?" Elsa chuckled. She had resorted to stabbing the filet and taking bites off of it, individual bites with the fork were not happening.
Honeymaren grinned, "I've had my fill... Have to save room for chocolate, after all."
Elsa snorted softly "Of course." she finished her fish and ate the potatoes, but she skipped the corn, it seemed like too much of a hassle to try to eat.
Olaf returned when he saw they had finished dinner, pushing a new cart with a chocolate cake with thick icing. He bussed the dinner dishes and set out new plates for the cake "Bon apetit!" he bubbled cheerfully and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Honeymaren got up to cut the cake, giving herself a hefty portion. "How much would you like, Elsa?"
Elsa sniffed the cake, her mouth was watering it smelled so delicious. "Same size as yours, I think. Thank you Honeymaren."
Honeymaren grinned and happily cut her a large slice as well, setting the plate in front of her and taking her own back with her to her seat. "My pleasure."
Elsa sniffed it again deeply before digging in with gusto, not caring about the little black cake crumbs now scattered over her muzzle.
Honeymaren dove in with just as much excitement, devouring every last bite until she sat back in her chair with a content grin. "So good."
Elsa grinned "I'm so full and content I think I could just fall asleep right here."
Honeymaren closed her eyes, "Me too, aren't you glad I suggested chocolate?" She grinned, satisfied.
"Very." Elsa agreed, standing up with a stretch "I was thinking of going to the library and reading, if you'd like to come? I can get you that book I mentioned earlier."
Honeymaren rose from the table and nodded, "That sounds great."
Elsa rumbled gently and walked over to meet Honeymaren to walk with her to the library. As they walked she felt an overwhelming urge to do something, playfully nudge her or something. She held her hands behind her back as she walked on her hind legs. It felt a little awkward at first but she quickly fell into step alongside Honeymaren.
Honeymaren walked with her to the library, resisting the urge to reach out for her or something as they walked, but they hadn't gotten to that yet. She stepped into the library with a fond smile, it always made her feel at home.
Elsa grinned to herself as she watched Honeymaren in the library, she had the same excitement and sense of wonder as a child in a candy shop. “I’m glad you like it. I hope you can be happy here.”
Honeymaren looked over at her “Can anyone be truly happy if they aren’t free?”
Elsa grimaced a little “I suppose you’re right.” She walked over to a shelf and pulled down the book in question, carefully handing it over to Honeymaren. “I hope you enjoy this adventure, too.” She pulled another book down for herself and went to go sit on the couch in front of the warm fire.
Honeymaren took it and clutched it to her chest. "Thank you... I look forward to it." She beamed, opening it to read the summary.
Elsa curled her hind legs closer to her body, her tail draped lazily off the side of the couch “there’s room if you wanted to sit. Or I can move to the floor, either is comfortable for me.”
"I wouldn't dream of forcing you to sit on the floor." She smiled and sat down beside her.
Elsa felt a surge of heat spread through her body as she felt Honeymaren settle down next to her. She turned her attention to the book in her hands, trying to calm herself down. This day had been a wonderful yet frightening series of firsts for them. She had allowed Honeymaren little glimpses into who she was and who she had been. And somehow, despite everything, she opted to sit next to her instead of running for the hills like Elsa had expected. It was small. But a start. Her tail twitched, a mix of excitement and nervousness.
Honeymaren felt a slight twitch beside her and smiled to herself, reading quietly next to Elsa.
Elsa quickly lost herself in the story she was reading, even though she had read it before. Like Honeymaren, she used the books as a means of escape from her prison. Though she had forced herself to read the other books, too. Math, physics, chemistry, biology and languages. She had even found a small collection of books of more explicit nature, which had helped her get through her teenage years, or at least understand what was happening physically and why she was having such desires. Nothing really helped with the emotional turmoil though. As Elsa read more, she became more relaxed. She didn’t notice that her tail had moved to drape over Honeymaren’s feet.
Honeymaren definitely noticed, but the last thing she was about to do was bring attention to it. She'd been in the castle for months now, and she was aching for touch, for any kind of contact.
Elsa’s eyes began to get heavier and she used the book cover to mark her page, setting it down with a tired yawn. She looked over at Honeymaren and then noticed what her tail had done. She quickly moved it away and jumped to her feet “I’m so sorry... I’m not always aware of what it’s doing. Stupid thing has a mind of its own. I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable. “
Honeymaren shook her head, "No, no... I actually found it quite nice." She admitted. "I miss touch... I know you don't seem to like it, so, no pressure, I just... I don't mind it is all I'm saying."
Elsa could barely believe her ears “I just... I thought I made you uncomfortable.”
"You don't." She assured her, "I think that maybe you have trouble believing that, though, just because of how you see yourself."
Elsa rumbled a small laugh “I suppose you’re right again. May I walk you to your room?”
Honeymaren nodded with a smile, offering her arm hopefully.
Elsa looked at Honeymaren’s arm. She slowly reached out with her own, placing it underneath Honeymaren’s so that her hand rested on her white fur. She held her breath at the touch. The familiar clenching in her chest returned, usually it was just a quick jolt or even a light fluttering. Now it felt as if her chest was imploding. She tried to not let it show, but it took a lot of effort to keep her arm from shaking.
Honeymaren took her arm happily, feeling a pleasant shiver. She walked with Elsa, taking her time on their way to her room. "I'm enjoying the book so far."
Elsa smiled a little “I’m glad you like it...” she started to relax, at least her arm had stopped shaking.
Honeymaren walked with her, leaning into her a little. She hadn't realized how touch-starved she'd been until now. "It's nice to be around a fellow bookworm."
Elsa simply nodded her agreement. She could feel the slight pressure change of Honeymaren’s weight against her and a deep rhythmic rumble started building up in her throat.
Honeymaren smiled a little. Was that a purr? She didn't say anything of it, just enjoyed it. "We should make a habit of this. Meals together."
Elsa nodded and cleared her throat “I agree. This has been a very pleasant day. It would be nice to have more of them.”
Honeymaren beamed bright and nodded, "Perfect, shall we have breakfast tomorrow?"
“That sounds lovely” Elsa smiled softly and came to a stop in front of Honeymaren’s door. She folded her hands behind her back and offered her a slight bow. “Good night, I hope you have pleasant dreams.” And with that she turned on her toes and headed down the hallway for her room.
Honeymaren curtsied back, "You too." She watched her go with a smile, then finally turned in for the night.
Elsa curled up on her bed, thoroughly exhausted from the day but her mind was racing. They had made such progress, and when she had touched Honeymaren's shoulders she didn't shudder at her paws. Perhaps this could be something more? She huffed, trying to push the hope out of mind. But then again, she's never looked at me that way before.
It's been too fluffy... let's mix it up a little.
Over the next weeks, Elsa fell into a steady daily pattern that included spending more and more time with Honeymaren. Breakfast, some outside activities like a stroll through the garden or feeding the birds. After lunch they’d have lessons together either in archery or cooking. Elsa was surprised to find that with Honeymaren’s constant supervision, she managed to make a somewhat edible loaf of bread... but often she just watched her cook and volunteered to serve as the official taste tester. After dinner they’d spend a few hours in the library reading before turning in for the night. Sometimes they would mix up their routine, like the time they had danced quietly in the ballroom on evening, Honeymaren dressed in a beautiful yellow ball gown and Elsa sporting a blue jacket.
Elsa thought she could have just died with happiness and she felt herself fall even harder, though she would be loathe to ever admit that out loud. She was still in her beast form, which meant that Honeymaren did not reciprocate and she would not force her hand or make her feel obligated to feel anything back by admitting her feelings.
As time went on she found Honeymaren would touch her more frequently, usually walking with her hand on Elsa’s arm. Elsa responded but offering light shoulder grazes or playfully flicking her with her tail. But her favorite was when Honeymaren would lean against her like a fluffy pillow as they read on the floor in front of the fireplace.
One night in late December, Elsa noticed that Honeymaren’s body language was off. She usually was relaxed when leaning against her, but she felt tense. “Is everything alright?”
Honeymaren looked up at Elsa, realizing how coiled up she felt inside. "It's just... I haven't heard from Ryder in a few weeks. He's usually pretty prompt, I'm starting to worry..."
Elsa rumbled gently “hmm... and you think he is in trouble?”
Honeymaren bit her lip, "I don't know. I don't want to assume the worst, but... I have no way of knowing."
Elsa closed her eyes “there is a way... come with me, there’s something I want to show you.”
Honeymaren sat up, her eyes wide. "Really?" She got to her feet, eager to follow.
Elsa stood and stretched, then started walking for the northern hallway “I didn’t want to show you this, because it’s so easy to lose yourself in a hopeless spiral. I know from experience. But in this case, I think the situation calls for it and you need to know.” She started walking up the stairs to her tower, which she frequented much less often now.
Honeymaren's interest was thoroughly piqued, she followed close behind. "What is it?"
“It will be easier to show you.” Elsa pushed the door open and made her way through the clutter. She walked over to the table that held her heart, noticing now it looked almost completely frozen, locked in an eerie blue ice, but grabbed an ornate hand mirror “this was the Enchantress’s cruelest act.” She carefully handed the mirror to Honeymaren.
Honeymaren took the mirror, frowning. "What do you mean?"
“It’s enchanted. Think of the person or place your heart wishes to see and ask the mirror to show you.” Elsa responded simply.
Honeymaren slowly nodded, picturing Ryder in her mind's eye. "May I see Ryder?" She asked the mirror.
The mirror shuddered and glowed a faint yellow as the image in its smooth surface no longer reflected Honeymaren’s face, but rather her brother, lying on a straw covered floor. It was dark and looked cold and damp, Ryder’s breath came in little puffs. In the background the silhouette of a man with oversized sideburns peered through the opening in the door “you helped her escape me, and now you’re going to pay the price.” And with that the mirror stilled and returned to its normal state.
“What was that?” Elsa peered curiously over Honeymaren’s shoulder.
Honeymaren lifted a hand to her lips in shock, "Ryder, no!" She looked to Elsa with tears in her eyes,"Hans... He's imprisoned him, I..."
Elsa growled, recalling the name. Her chest felt like it was going to burst when she saw the pain and concern in Honeymaren’s eyes “then, you should go to him.”
Honeymaren looked up at Elsa, not believing what she'd heard. "Elsa... Truly?"
Elsa nodded and turned her head away “yes. You are no longer my prisoner. You’re free. Now go… Save him.”
Honeymaren's eyes watered and she threw her arms around Elsa, "Thank you."
Elsa purred deep in her chest, trying to commit every detail about Honeymaren to memory, “take the mirror with you, it will show you the way.” What she couldn’t bring herself to say was “in case you ever wanted to remember me.”
Honeymaren held her tight, realizing that she wasn't ready to say goodbye. "I'll come back." She promised softly.
Elsa shook her head “no... go live your life. See the world. You deserve so much more. I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.”
Honeymaren clung to her for several more long moments, then finally pulled away. "Thank you, Elsa." She took the mirror and hurried off to find Sven, urging him quickly towards the town.
Elsa watched from her tower balcony as the silhouette of the girl on her reindeer disappeared into the forest. She clutched her chest tightly, unable to hold back her roar of anguish. She stood there, frozen, until her thoughts were interrupted by Olaf.
“Mistress? Is everything okay? Why did I see Honeymaren fleeing the grounds?”
“I... let her go.” Elsa murmured, not looking at him.
“But the solstice, your birthday, it’s nearly upon us!”
“I know… but it had to happen. I had the chance to save her, and I took it.” Elsa shook her head “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, too. Maybe I was fooling myself all these years, that I could break the curse. I don’t even know what love is.”
Olaf shook his head, "Yes, you do." He waddled closer, "Love means putting someone else's needs before your own. You let her go. You love her."
"I... love her?" Elsa turned to face him
Olaf blinked, "You really don't know anything about love, do you?"
Elsa snorted "I suppose you're right... that's what made the curse so effective, I guess. I'm still sorry it wasn't enough to save you. You've been imprisoned in this hell just like me, yet you've always been there for me. I guess what I'm trying to say is... thank you. You've been a great friend."
Olaf smiled, tapping his twig hands together. "Permission to hug your leg?"
Elsa chuckled and lowered herself to her knees to be closer to his height "How about a regular hug?"
Olaf gasped and grinned, throwing himself into a hug with her. "Oh... I like warm hugs."
Honeymaren rode through the night, rushing to town as quickly as she could (well, as quickly as Sven could). She burst through the gates of town, searching for Hans in the crowd.
Hans sneered down from his manor when he caught a glimpse of Honeymaren in the crowd. Looking. For him. He knew his trap had worked. She would always have a soft spot for her brother. He wasn't sure how exactly Honeymaren found out about Ryder's imprisonment, but he didn't care. He took his time making his way to the town square.
Honeymaren stayed on Sven, searching and searching until she finally saw a crop of red hair in the crowd. "Hans, let my brother go!"
"Ah, Honeymaren... you don't know how long I've waited for you see the reason and seek out my company." Hans ignored her comment.
Honeymaren jumped down from Sven and charged at him, "Where is my brother?"
"Now, now...wouldn't want to make a scene, would we? It's very unladylike of you." Hans held up his hands passively. "When we're married we will have to work on your manners and the way you hold yourself in public. You'll be Mrs. Mayor and everyone will look to you."
Honeymaren glared at him, lowering her voice. "Those are your terms for releasing him, then?" She said with a disgusted sneer.
"What can I say? It's not my fault he chose to parade around the square each day, raving about a hideous beast that had you prisoner! This is a mercy for him... he'll be sent to the asylum soon. And unless you want to join him, I suggest you stand down. Now."
Honeymaren gritted her teeth, "He wasn't lying! And she's not hideous, she's not a beast, she's kind and gentle... Nothing like you."
“You call a beast kind and gentle? If I didn’t know any better it sounds like you have feelings for the monster!” Hans growled "And you expect me to just take this on your word? The word of a reindeer shepherdess? You must take me for a fool! What proof do you have of this!?"
Honeymaren pulled out the mirror and looked into it. "Show me Elsa."
Hans staggered back when he saw the white haired monster roaring in the glass mirror, his eyes wide with fear. He recovered quickly and surged forward, grabbing the mirror from Honeymaren's grasp, holding it as he gazed at the image in the glass. "This is black magic... sorcery!"
"No! She's... She's not a monster, she's just cursed." Honeymaren reached for the mirror, trying to take it back.
Hans jerked the mirror away from her, waving it at the crowd "Look, everyone! The Beast has her under a spell! She’s cursed you say? We must find and kill the monster to break the spell and save her and protect these lands from the danger, lest she curse us all! Guards! Take her to my manor! She can... cool off there."
Town guards hurried forward and took Honeymaren by the arms, dragging her away.
Honeymaren cried out, struggling against them, "No! She'd never hurt anyone, stop!!"
"Everyone! We must stop this monster! Make your preparations, we leave at sundown! I won't rest until we kill the beast and stop this darkness!" Hans rallied the crowd that had formed in the marketplace. They might have been scared of him, but the image in the mirror scared them even more. He turned and followed the guards up the hill to his house.
Honeymaren was dragged from the square and thrown into a storm cellar. She pounded on the door even after she'd heard it locked. "You won't get away with this!"
"Oh, I already have." Hans grinned through a slat in the door, then quickly closed it.
Honeymaren turned around at the sound of a familiar voice. "Ryder!" She rushed over to him, wrapping her arms around him.
"Mare? You came back?" Ryder looked up at her, weakly
"Of course I did." She held him close, "I couldn't let him hurt you."
"But how did you escape?" Ryder clutched to her
"Escape?" She blinked, "Elsa let me go. Ryder, I know she treated you horribly... me too, at first, but she's good. I know it in my soul. I've seen it."
"Elsa? That creature's name is Elsa?" Ryder was having a hard time understanding
"She's not a creature." She shook her head, "She's sweet and shy, and lonely..." Her heart ached to think of Elsa alone, and she suddenly remembered Hans. "We have to get out of here. We have to warn her!'
"You almost sound like you..." Ryder started but sighed and switched topics "How? I've tried everything!"
Honeymaren took his hands, looking around. "If we can find some kind of prybar... maybe there's something down here."
Ryder nodded "I've looked... but maybe... maybe with you, we can trick the guards when they bring us food? They come in twice a day. At first I tried to fight them, but I got weaker and weaker..."
Honeymaren nodded, "That could work. How soon until they come again?"
"An hour or two, perhaps? They aren't exactly punctual..."
"Got it. Okay, let's plan. Maybe if you pretend to attack them first, they'll get their guard down because they know they can beat you, but as soon as they start, I'll rush in and we can overwhelm them."
Ryder nodded "That sounds good. That could work. This will work... You know, your letters kept me from going insane with worry all that time."
Honeymaren smiled, "I'm glad... I got so worried when I didn't hear back. I just knew something was wrong."
Ryder nodded "And how is Sven?"
"He enjoyed the grounds, but I think he missed you." She smiled.
"I missed him, too." Ryder looked up when he heard the commotion from the square reaching a fever pitch. "Sounds like they're getting ready to go..."
Honeymaren nodded, "We have to get out. Tonight."
Minutes later, she heard a jingling of keys at the door. "Ryder, get ready!" She hid in the shadows by the door, waiting.
Ryder nodded and stumbled to his feet "I'll distract them."
A guard opened the door, carrying a tray with food, his attention fixed on Ryder "Step back, prisoner! Against the wall" he addressed Ryder, warily stepping into the cell to place the tray on the table. Ryder mustered what strength he had and lunged at the guard, trying to wrestle him, but was quickly losing due to his weakened state. But he hoped it was enough for Maren to do something.
Honeymaren waited until just the right moment, then charged at the guard from the side, knocking him to the ground, "Run, Ryder!" She scrambled to her feet and rushed out of the cellar, slamming the door shut behind her.
Ryder hurried after her, "I can't believe that worked! Go, take Sven and save her, I'll be okay..."
"Just stay low, stay safe!" She found Sven by their house and quickly swung onto him and rushed off towards the castle.
Warning: Graphic depictions of violence and Major Character Death.
Because the harder you fluff, the harder you fall.
Elsa was curled up on Honeymaren's bed, staring in despair at her heart, now beating just a couple of times each minute. She had carefully brought down from the tower when she had closed herself in Honeymaren's room, trying to imagine her still there. But she wasn't, and all she could do was sit, waiting for the inevitable. There were only a couple hours to midnight and the passing of her 25th birthday. And the curse would become permanent. She grumbled and closed her eyes.
Olaf rushed into the room, "Mistress! At the gates, angry people, torches! Pitchforks! What do we do?"
"Let them come..." Elsa murmured "maybe they can bring an end to this suffering."
Olaf hesitated, "But..." He shook his head, heading back to the foyer. He'd at least try to slow them down.
"Leave me, please." Elsa closed her eyes again, sliding back into her dark depression. She had seen the light when Honeymaren had been here, a brief reprieve. But now that familiar inky blackness threatened to swallow her whole this time. And she was ready to succumb.
Olaf stood in the foyer, "Snowgies... We need to defend the castle! Gather with me!"
Hans stared up from the huge wrought iron gates, his sword at his side. He hadn't used it since the war and he took over mayorship of the town. Too long had it been neglected. "You see! It's true! This is a cursed land! The beast must be in there, somewhere! Watch your step." He moved out of the way for the group carrying the battering ram to make short work of the metal gates. The mob made their way across the grounds and up to the giant doors to the castle, ready to break them down next.
Olaf watched as the snowgies gathered in a big pile, and suddenly that pile became something bigger. Olaf grinned, "That'll work!"
As the battering ram struck the doors, something began to push back from the inside. When the mob pulled back, the door pounded again from the inside.
"Again, men! We're almost there!" Hans shouted, trying to rally their courage again. "Take whatever treasure you can find inside, but don't forget, the Beast is mine!"
Before they could strike the door again, a white mass of snow and ice came exploding through the doors with a mighty roar, claws and teeth made of sharp ice, bared and ready. On its shoulders, Olaf held up an umbrella as if it was a sword. "Prepare to meet your doooooom!"
Hans staggered looking up at the giant snowy monster and little snowman riding it like a horse. He drew his sword, ready to strike, but when the snow creature started to chase the scattering crowd, he saw his opportunity to duck behind it and sneak inside.
He made his way through the drafty corridors, his sword at the ready, carefully checking each room. But the castle was huge, bigger than anything he had ever seen before. He tried the south wing first, then started making his way clockwise.
Honeymaren rushed through the forest on Sven and finally the castle came into view. She saw the mob at the gates and gasped, urging him onward. She saw Olaf and a new creature made of snow, but she didn't see Elsa... Or Hans.
Olaf squealed from on top of Marshmallow "Honeymaren? You came back?" But he didn't have time for pleasantries as the townsfolk rallied for another attack, though their numbers were greatly diminished, most had run away in fear.
She called out to Olaf, "Where is Elsa?"
"She's inside. You go, I'll catch up!" Olaf yelled and bounded forward on Marshmallow, meeting the attack.
Hans crept through the halls, holding his sword at the ready. "Beast, I know you're in here... Come out and face me!"
Elsa raised her head slightly off the bed when she heard a voice in the hall, but she didn't move from her spot. Not even when she heard the door open.
"You tried to keep Honeymaren to yourself, and believe me I can understand why... We're not so different, you and I... Except for the fact that she's mine now." He laughed, swinging his sword in a lazy circle.
"I'm nothing like you." Elsa growled softly, not looking at the man. "And you are a fool. She belongs to no one but herself."
Hans looked her over as he stepped into the room, "She belongs to me. She always did, even if she didn’t know it. Now get up and fight!"
"No. I will not."
Hans scoffed "Are you in love with her? Have you deluded yourself into thinking she could actually love something like you? A hideous monster? She came straight to me when she got back to town! She sends her regards, by the way." He sneered and lifted his sword "And when I return with your head, and I prove my love to her, we'll mount it on our wall as a trophy!" He took a breath and plunged his sword into her side.
Elsa roared in pain and tried to scoot away from him, falling off the bed, clutching her side, feeling a gush of warm blood. "I will not fight you."
Honeymaren steered Sven around to the back and jumped off him, rushing into the castle. "Elsa!"
Hans sauntered toward her "You're pathetic..." He kicked her in the chest, sending her tumbling back "Get up and fight me!" he screamed, enraged.
Elsa just groaned, but she felt an anger rising in her chest, a light flurry starting to fall around the room.
Hans looked around the swirling snowstorm in the room "Witchcraft..." he kicked at her again, this time hitting her directly in the sword wound.
Elsa cried out in pain and reared up on her back legs, reaching out to grab him by the throat and lifting him up into the air.
Honeymaren heard Hans' scream coming from the East wing, then Elsa's. She sprinted down the hall towards the sound, "No! Elsa!" She swung into the door and saw Elsa holding up Hans by the throat, she was bleeding heavily from her side, her white tunic thoroughly soaked. But she was alive.
Elsa turned when she saw Honeymaren, her face relaxing "You came back?"
Honeymaren stilled, "Of course I came back." She smiled sadly. "I came back for you."
"You came back... for me?" Elsa slowly lowered Hans, glaring at him "Get out." she growled menacingly, releasing him. Once he had scampered away, she moved toward Honeymaren, she was the only thing on her mind.
Honeymaren rushed to her, her eyes misty with tears. "Of course I did..."
Elsa didn't hesitate, she wrapped Honeymaren in her arms "Honeymaren... I never thought I would see you again... There's something I need to tell you. I..." and that's when she felt the sword tip slip between her ribs.
"Oh, look at that... she's been impaled." Olaf's ill-timed comment came from the doorway. "But on the plus side, we scared all of the villagers away!"
Elsa gasped and fell backward away from Honeymaren, stumbling. Her vision started to blur as she saw a sea of white snowgies flowing past her, attacking Hans, tackling him to the ground.
Honeymaren cried out, clutching at Elsa, "No! No, Elsa, no... Elsa..." She looked up at Hans, restrained by the snowgies, for now, his sword having clattered to the floor. She turned back to Elsa, brushing her fingers across her face.
Elsa smiled weakly up at her, her breathing was labored, the sword had punctured a lung "I. Love..." she coughed as she gagged on her own blood. "You." she sighed as her eyes rolled back in her head, falling heavily to the ground.
Honeymaren's eyes watered, stinging with tears. "I love you, Elsa. I love you." Her head fell against her chest, fingers clinging desperately to her white fur.
Elsa's chest fell as she exhaled the last air in her lungs as the bell tolled the first stroke of midnight.
"Please. Don't leave me, Elsa..." Honeymaren’s heart clenched as she choked on a sob. Elsa was gone. She was gone, and it was Hans who had killed her. She rose, shaking, and picked up his sword from the ground as she got to her feet to face him.
Hans struggled against the little snowgies, but he had gotten a front row view of what happened. He smiled up at Honeymaren as she approached "Oh, well, at least that little inconvenience is out of the way now."
Honeymaren raised his sword, her eyes cold and calculating. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you where you stand."
Olaf came up behind Honeymaren and tugged Honeymaren's shirt "Because you are not a monster. Don't do this. I know you're hurting, but she wouldn't want this."
Honeymaren sniffed, tears streaming down her cheeks. She kept the sword raised high, never taking her eyes off of him. Finally, she lowered the sword and turned away. "You're not worth it." She said softly, throwing the sword away. She collapsed over Elsa, letting the tears overwhelm her.
Olaf bowed his head as he took in the scene of Honeymaren clinging to the lifeless body. They had missed the deadline by seconds . He sighed and led the snowgies out of the room toward the dungeons, Hans bouncing unceremoniously along.
A slightly different ending than what you were probably expecting... whoops.
Ryder sighed as he slowly approached Honeymaren, who was sitting on top of the hill overlooking their small town. "Hey Mare... how are you doing?"
Honeymaren looked out over the town, her brow furrowed in thought. "I'm okay. Just realizing how much better this place is without Hans at the helm." She murmured, non-committal.
Ryder chuckled "Yeah, that's true. Never woulda guessed the people would have voted for you to take over running this place, though." He nudged her playfully. "But you're doing a great job so far. I mean, in just two years you've really made big strides in turning around the small minded thinking."
Honeymaren chuckled, "Thanks... I never would've expected it either, honestly. I'm just glad the people are happy. They deserve that much."
Ryder nodded "Yeah... but are you happy? I know you had big dreams of getting out and seeing the world..."
Honeymaren thought back on the events of the last two years. Her life had gone in directions she'd never dreamed possible, she had felt a deep love for Elsa and even deeper loss. She'd learned to trust herself and her instincts, learned to lead and be strong for others in her life. "I wouldn't change a thing." She said with a soft smile. "Well, maybe one thing."
Ryder nodded "That's not what I asked but we don't have to talk about it. I just know what day it is and that it's still hard for you. It's okay to miss her. You don't have to pretend around me, you know. I'm here for you if you need, okay?"
Honeymaren smiled and leaned against Ryder, "I… I do miss her... But I'll be okay. I've got plenty to look forward to."
Ryder nodded and put his arm around her "What's on your mind? I can practically feel your mental gears turning"
Honeymaren chuckled softly, "Well, I'm just... Trying to figure out the next steps, you know?"
"Whatever it is, I know you'll do the next right thing." Ryder waggled his eyebrows "Well, when you're done thinking and moping around up here, I've got a surprise for you in the house."
Honeymaren lifted a brow, "Is it bacon? Because you know I don't joke about bacon."
"It's better than bacon." Ryder smirked. "But I could make you bacon if Miss Mayor wants it."
Honeymaren snorted, "You know I'll never turn down bacon. Come on then, what's this surprise?"
"Nope, not gonna tell and ruin the surprise. You'll just have to come and see!" Ryder turned and headed down the snowy hill toward town. "Besides, Sven and the others missed you. Now that you're up here being all important and stuff we rarely get to see you!"
Honeymaren chuckled and followed him down to the town, "Alright, alright..."
Ryder grinned and opened the door for Honeymaren "Go inside, close your eyes, I'll go get your surprise."
Honeymaren rolled her eyes, but closed them after she'd stepped into the doorway. "All these theatrics..." She heard the door open and close, then suddenly felt warm soft lips pressed against hers.
Honeymaren's eyes shot open and she squealed, "What?! You weren't supposed to be home for another month!" She threw her arms around Elsa and clutched her tight, "I missed you so much... Next time you leave for months, I decree that you're not allowed to go without me."
"You think I would have missed our anniversary? I wouldn't miss it for the world..." Elsa picked Honeymaren up and spun her around "I missed you, too."
Honeymaren beamed and laughed, "You are sneakier than I give you credit for..." She pulled her close and kissed her deeply, finally pulling back with a smile.
“I’m sorry, love. Being Queen of Arendelle is demanding and I wish I didn’t have to travel as much. And it won’t be like this all the time. Once I reestablish Arendelle’s standing with our trade partners and reform the old alliances, most correspondence can be done via mail or done by my representatives on my behalf. And for the record, I wasn’t in Corona for that long!” Elsa grinned and wrapped her arms around her. “And of course you can come next time, I did promise you that I would help you see the world one day, and now we can, and not just through story books.”
Honeymaren nodded, "Going that long without you was torture..." She bit her lip, "Can you wait here for just one second?"
"Of course, love." Elsa let go and watched her with curious eyes.
Honeymaren rushed to her bedroom and rifled through her top drawer to find the small box where she'd stashed it, then headed back out to the hall, holding it behind her back. "I had this whole plan ready for when you came home, but... I think now is just perfect." She knelt down on one knee, holding up the box in her hands. "Elsa, you've shown me a whole new world... I'm happier than I ever thought possible. Would you do me the extraordinary honor of marrying me?" She opened the box to reveal a silver and sapphire ring, simple and classic.
Elsa turned around when she heard Honeymaren come back into the room, gasping with her hands over her mouth when she saw her get down before her, eyes wide and smiling from ear to ear "Yes, gods, a thousand times yes."
Honeymaren grinned and leapt to her feet, throwing herself around Elsa again, she couldn't help herself. She finally pulled back and put the ring on her finger, then kissed her deeply.
Elsa beamed, clutching Honeymaren close to her, a deep purr building in her throat. Some of her more endearing character traits had followed her back into her human form. "I love you so much... it seems only fair that I reciprocate..." she waved her hand and a band of ice formed around Honeymaren's finger. She made it more like crystal, cool but not as freezing as her other ice, and she knew it would never melt.
Honeymaren grinned and admired her ring, still in awe even after seeing her powers in action over the two years they'd been truly together. "You're so amazing..."
Elsa couldn't stop smiling, "You are." she threaded her thin fingers into Honeymaren's thick hair, holding her close "I'll never get tired of this." she grinned and held her ring up to look at it "This is beautiful, love. You know that this means we will have to have a ball soon, to announce our engagement."
Honeymaren grinned, "I think we should make it a tradition... A winter solstice ball to celebrate our love."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea. Perhaps a spring ball for the announcement and then we can start the tradition next year?" Elsa grinned.
Honeymaren grinned, "And a winter solstice wedding perhaps?"
"If that is your desire, then you shall have it." Elsa smiled "Besides, it seems like a much better way to celebrate the day of my birth and death. Finally a happy memory associated with the day."
Honeymaren held her hands with a smile, "I never want you to have a day that's not worth celebrating ever again."
Elsa smiled and intertwined their fingers "As long as I'm with you then every day is worth celebrating. I shall not take the gift of my time with you for granted."
"Right back at you, love." She smiled back, "We have some planning to do..."
Elsa chuckled "True... I'm sure Mrs. Potts and the others will be happy to be able to throw another ball."
"Good, and they're all invited! We can hire out another crew to man the party, they deserve to relax and enjoy it for once."
Elsa grinned "Now you're talking like a queen... though you will technically hold the title of Royal Consort. Or I could just do away with the antiquated rules and traditions and make you queen, if that is what you want."
Honeymaren blushed, "I'll think about that... I'm not entirely sure what I want in that regard."
"Of course. You do not need to decide that yet." Elsa rubbed her thumb along Honeymaren's jaw. "Would you like to come to the castle with me tomorrow? I want to know what happened that night and I think I've found a way to see it. But if it's something you don't want to experience again, I will understand."
Honeymaren thought for a moment, her face going dark. Slowly, she nodded. "I want to be there with you."
Elsa hugged Honeymaren close. She had never asked about it, she could see the pain it caused her just by thinking about it, let alone speaking the memories out loud. Olaf had come across some theory about water having memory, so she would try to draw moisture from the objects in the room from when she had flurried and caused a mini-snow storm when Hans had attacked her.
Honeymaren held her tight, but finally let her go. "Well... We have an engagement to announce. Shall we tell Ryder?"
Elsa chuckled "Best to start with your nearest and dearest."
The next day the pair traveled up to the now colorful and lively castle. The moment Mrs. Potts saw their rings the news spread like wildfire throughout the castle, but everyone who worked there was sworn to secrecy when discussing royal gossip off the grounds. But they could gossip inside the walls with other staff.
Elsa just chuckled and led the way up to Honeymaren's old room, her hand resting on the door knob. The room had been left undisturbed since that night, neither they nor staff had come in here in two years. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Honeymaren took Elsa's free hand and nodded, drawing in a deep breath. "I'm ready. I don't want to, but I feel like I need to accept the past. The good and the bad."
Elsa nodded and opened the door. She cringed a little at the pool of blood still staining the floor, the overturned furniture where she had tried to escape from Hans. Even the sword still lay on the ground. She let go of Honeymaren's hand and knelt on the floor, pressing her hands into the wood panels. She used her magic to freeze the moisture in the floorboards "I want to know what happened." She looked around, small beads of water were rising from the floor and walls, taking shape in front of her. She even heard voices and sounds. It was like they had been transported back in time, reliving the past through icy, moving sculptures. She gasped as the scene unfolded in front of her, reaching back for Honeymaren's hand to keep her grounded.
"Please. Don't leave me, Elsa..." Honeymaren choked on her sobs. She clung to the body on the ground then rose, her body visibly shaking. After a few moments she picked up the sword from the ground as she got to her feet to face Hans.
Hans struggled against the little snowgies. He smiled up at Honeymaren as she approached "Oh, well, at least that little inconvenience is out of the way now."
Honeymaren raised his sword, her eyes cold and calculating. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you where you stand."
Olaf came up behind Honeymaren and tugged Honeymaren's shirt "Because you are not a monster. Don't do this. I know you're hurting, but she wouldn't want this."
Honeymaren sniffed, tears streaming down her cheeks. She kept the sword raised high, never taking her eyes off of him. Finally, she lowered the sword and turned away. "You're not worth it." She said softly, throwing the sword away. She collapsed over Elsa, letting the tears overwhelm her.
Elsa gripped Honeymaren's hand tight, gasping softly as she watched the scene "You were going to kill him?"
Honeymaren squeezed her hand, her head bowed, "I'm not proud of it... But he'd taken you from me. There wasn't much I wouldn't have done."
Elsa sighed, turning to look at her, her hand under her chin, gently raising her face up to look her in the eyes "Oh Honey, I'm so sorry you had to endure that. I'm not sure what I would feel if I were in that situation, probably the same way. But Olaf was right, I wouldn't have wanted you to kill him in revenge. You're not a murderer, you've got a beautiful, pure heart. That man wasn't worth you becoming a monster. Not even for me."
Honeymaren smiled softly, sadly. "I... Hope you don't think less of me."
"Think less of you? Why on earth would I think less of you for loving me so much?" Elsa pulled Honeymaren in close.
Honeymaren held her close, pressing her face into Elsa's shoulder. "Thank you..."
Elsa held her a moment then her attention shifted when she saw the ice shifting into a new scene.
Honeymaren looked up, pulling back just enough to watch the scene unfold.
A cloaked figure walked past Honeymaren, slumped over Elsa's still form, and made her way across the room to the frozen heart in the bell jar. She lifted the glass covering and picked up the heart, holding it in her hand.
Honeymaren looked up, staring at the figure at the frozen heart and she choked on a sob, "Wait, don't- don't touch it, it's hers-"
The figure simply turned to face her, finally lowering her hood, revealing a young woman. "No... her heart does not belong to her anymore."
“Anna?” a look of recognition spread across Honeymaren’s face and got to her feet, shaking, "What... What do you mean?"
The woman just smiled and handed it to Honeymaren. “Only true love can thaw a frozen heart.”
Honeymaren took the heart, and as she touched it, the ice started to melt away. She looked at it, then at Elsa. She knelt down to her side and pressed the heart against her chest, watching in wonder as it magically disappeared into her. "Elsa?" She glanced back at the hooded figure, who gave her a reassuring nod. She turned back to Elsa. "Come back to me, my love."
Anna smiled softly and with a flick of her wrist, she started to unravel the spell she had cast over the castle. The walls, fixtures, floors... everything that had fallen into disrepair was returned to its original form as it had been 17 years ago. Icy candles burned brightly, lighting the room, revealing lush furniture and carpets.
Lastly, the spell on Elsa started to weaken and her form started to shift, her body rising up into the air, spinning around slowly. Her fur dissipated into pale, soft skin, her hair cascaded down very human shoulders. Claws became delicate nails on slender fingers. Finally Elsa’s body fell back to the ground, still for a moment, then her eyes opened and she gasped loudly, sitting up.
Honeymaren watched in awe, her hand over her heart. "Elsa?"
Elsa blinked as the scene froze "Wow... I just remember waking up and being really disoriented... and seeing you standing there..."
Honeymaren squeezed Elsa's hands, "It was much more than that..."
Elsa smiled, "You never cease to amaze me, Honey." The scene shifted again, the ice sculptures were now embracing one another.
Honeymaren grinned, tears streaming down her cheeks as she looked up into Elsa’s crystal blue eyes and pulled Elsa into a fierce hug. "I love you, I love you so much, Elsa."
Elsa held her close, sobbing quietly “I love you, Honeymaren.”
Honeymaren clutched her tight, crying against her. "I thought I'd lost you..."
“Lost me? You saved me! You broke the curse!” Elsa nuzzled her cheek against the side of Honeymaren’s head before pulling back, staring into her soft gaze filled with nothing but love and wonder. She threaded her fingers into Honeymaren’s thick hair, content to just hold her close. But eventually she broke the embrace and looked down at her human body. “Wow... so those are new...” she chuckled.
Elsa blushed “Wow… yeah… that happened. To be fair, boobs are fascinating.”
Honeymaren just snorted and continued watching.
Honeymaren laughed through her tears of joy, "I'm so glad you're alive. There's so much more I want to do with you, to say-" she laughed, "Starting with telling you how beautiful you are. Not that you weren't before, but wow... You're stunning."
“Thank you. You are absolutely beautiful. I never told you, I was so scared of letting myself feel and that you might not reciprocate.” Elsa laughed softly “you thought I was beautiful in that form?”
Honeymaren nodded, "I feel like that form did represent who you are inside... Just not in the way you thought. You were strong, graceful, powerful, warm. But now I see every side of you, and it's even better than I could have dreamed."
Elsa smiled softly and pulled Honeymaren into another deep hug “well, at least the height change makes hugging easier.” She laughed, pressing their foreheads together. “You are the most amazing woman, and I plan to remind you of that every day henceforth. That is... if you’ll have me.”
Honeymaren chuckled and closed her eyes. "Is that a proposal?"
“Well, I...” Elsa blushed, stammering a little “I thought we might start as girlfriends?”
Honeymaren grinned, "I'd like that. Very much."
Elsa warmed as the scene froze in front of them. “We were so... hopelessly obvious…”
Honeymaren chuckled softly and held onto Elsa's arm, "We were..."
Elsa slowly stood up and turned to Honeymaren “let’s go. I want to talk more with you but not here.”
Honeymaren nodded, "I agree. Lead on, my love."
Elsa did just that, closing the door behind them, and with it leaving all the memories in the past, finally put to rest. She led them down to the ballroom, where she bowed slightly “may I have this dance with my lovely fiancée?”
Honeymaren grinned and bowed back, then took her by the waist to pull her close, "Yes. Forever, yes."
Elsa chuckled and started sweeping them across the dance floor. She held Honeymaren tight to her body, loving the way they fit together. Even though this style of dancing would be considered highly inappropriate at a formal ball, when it was just them they could do what they pleased. “You’re a very good dancer” Elsa remarked.
Honeymaren grinned, "Well, I've got an excellent teacher."
Elsa smiled and leaned in to kiss her "You give me too much credit, love." She held her and swayed a little more "I remember when we first danced together like this. You were in that yellow gown. I was so beside myself with excitement and anxiety. I still couldn't believe that you had accepted and I thought that you'd run away at any moment."
Honeymaren smiled and blushed, pressing herself close to Elsa. "I'll never forget that dance..."
"When did you know?" Elsa murmured into Honeymaren's hair. "I was truly awful to you when we first met, so cold and guarded... but what changed?"
Honeymaren held her close as they swayed to unheard music, "You saved my life... And I realized that beneath all that icy exterior, you were just as lonely and scared as I was."
"I was... I didn't know how to act around other people anymore. I went years without speaking more than a few words. And then you came stumbling into the castle and turned my whole world upside down, for the best of course. Mostly I was so mad because you made me hope, and it scared me so much because how could someone so beautiful and amazing actually want to be with me?" Elsa sighed.
Honeymaren chuckled softly, "You showed me that I could actually find happiness... That my life didn't have to be running away from plagues and men who don't take no for an answer... I thought that's all my life would ever be until you."
Elsa smiled and pulled away to look into Honeymaren's soft brown eyes "You never have to live like that again."
Honeymaren smiled back at her, "I can't imagine life without you."
"Nor I, my love. Nor I." For the moment, everything around them seemed to fade away, leaving them in their own private world. With one last twirl and flourish, Elsa pulled Honeymaren in for a kiss that would transcend time itself.
And thus ends your tale as old as time.
Thank you for joining these two on their journey together as they learned that there's so much more to someone than meets the eye.