Chapter 1: Chapter 1
(get right to the heart of matters; it’s the heart that matters more)
It was far too early to be awake.
Princess Anna drew her cloak tighter around her and stamped her feet against the cold. The stableyard was busy despite the early hour; it was still completely dark but men were readying horses and loading boxes into sleds. Anna herself had nothing to do but wait.
Most of the workers were people she recognised, at least vaguely. Guards and grooms and footmen. Two of the guards were coming with them, and her maid, Birgitta; Anna knew they were all riding in the larger sled. The smaller one was being loaded with trunks and boxes and it had a reindeer harnessed to it rather than the pair of horses on the larger. She guessed that must be for their guide.
I mean, she knew why they had to leave so early, but why did they have to leave so early.
“ - and I told the queen, today’s not the day for travelling. Look at those clouds!”
“Her Majesty is very insistent that -” that was Kai, the castle steward.
“Yes, I know she is. And I’ll do it, but if we get half a mile and have to turn back it isn’t my fault,” the first man said.
“It is very important for her safety that the princess leave Arendelle immediately -”
“And you think she’ll be safer on the mountain, in the middle of a snowstorm?”
“I think you should do the job you’re being paid for.”
“And I thought I was being paid for my experience, but you don't seem to want the benefit of it.”
The man stomped - there was no other word for it - over to the front sled and started rearranging the things that had been packed in the back of it, banging the boxes together and muttering under his breath. Looking up, he caught Anna’s eye, and to her surprise he looked away quickly, embarrassed.
“Your Highness,” and this was Kai again, now, at her elbow. “Everything is ready, if you'd like to take your seat?’”
“Yes - of course - is that our guide?”
“Oh, yes, I'll introduce you.”
She followed him over to where the man was standing, seemingly talking to his reindeer. Kai cleared his throat. “Princess Anna, this is Kristoff Bjorgman. He’ll take you over the mountains and Prince James’s men will meet you in Blackstad. Mr Bjorgman, Princess Anna of Arendelle.”
“Charmed,” he said. “Princess Anna, I feel obliged to inform you that I have already advised anyone who will listen that it is not safe to travel today. It's going to storm, we should wait for it to pass before we attempt the mountain.”
Anna looked at Kai. His expression was firm. “We need to leave today,” she said.
“Fine. Fine.” Bjorgman looked at his feet for a second, then back up. “Let's go, then, and see how far we can get before we have to turn back.”
By the time the sun rose they were well above the town. The sleds moved easily on the snow, and Anna felt they must be making good time. It was dull, though; the sky was grey with clouds (and from what she could see, their guide spent more time looking at them than at the road) and no one in her party was especially good company. One guard drove, and the other sat silent and alert. Birgitta dozed. And Anna fidgeted in her seat, and watched the horizon in front of them and the town behind them, and wished she had someone to talk to.
So after their brief stop for lunch she climbed onto the bench of the front sled.
“Princess Anna,” the guide said, surprised. “Is something the matter?”
“No, nothing! I just thought I’d sit with you for a bit. If that’s okay! And you can call me Anna. Can I call you Kristoff?”
He nodded but said nothing.
The sleds continued up the mountain path. Anna turned in her seat and looked behind them; she could barely see Arendelle now, just snow, stretching out all around them.
“Do you really think it’s going to storm?” she asked.
“Yes. That’s why I said it.”
“If it does, what will we do? Go back?”
“ When it does - no. We’ve come too far, now, and it’d take too long, even though it’s downhill. No, we’d probably head into a valley and try and make camp. Or if it holds off a while longer we can probably make it to the caves where I was planning we would camp tonight.”
“Yes. It’s not that exciting. Don’t you get out much?”
“No. I’ve never been out of Arendelle before.”
“Not even this far?”
“Huh.” He looked sideways at her for a moment, then away. “And now you’re going all this way. What’re you going to do in Blackstad?”
“Oh, I’m not staying there, they’re just collecting me from there. I’m going to Karlstad to get married.”
“To this Prince James.”
“That’s right. What about you, are you married?”
“There’s no Mrs Bjorgman? No little blonde children waiting at the window for Papa to get home -”
“You must be lonely.”
“I manage.” He set his jaw and turned back to the road. Anna tried again.
“Is this what you do all the time? Guiding people.”
“No. Usually I cut ice.”
“Oh, so that’s how you know the mountains. Do you often go as far as Blackstad?”
“Not often. But sometimes. We’ll be there by dark tomorrow, weather willing.”
“I hope so because they’ll be waiting for us. For me.”
They drove on in silence for a little while. They were approaching the top of a ridge, now, and the road ran at an angle to it as they climbed.
Then Kristoff spoke. “Can I ask you something? What’s with the birds?” He jerked his shoulder to the pile of supplies behind him, on top of which was strapped a rectangular birdcage with a rug tied over it. “Couldn’t you have left them at home?”
“Oh no, they’re not pets. They’re messenger birds. I can send a message back to Arendelle with them.”
“They didn’t look like pigeons.”
“No, they aren’t. They’re - different.”
They were made of ice. The day before, Anna had watched her sister spin them out of fresh air, with their delicate sparkling beaks, flashing eyes and wings made of feathers soft as snow. But no one else was supposed to know about Elsa’s magic and what it could do.
“Elsa has some too,” Anna said. “So she can send me messages.”
“I never heard of a bird that could find a person.”
“Well, these ones can.”
He looked sceptical. Then he said “Oh, no.”
It was; just a few flakes at first, but as they watched over the next few minutes more and more began to fall. Anna pulled her hood over her head. “But we want it to snow, right? It’ll cover our tracks.”
“It’ll cover us if we’re not careful.” Kristoff leant backwards and shouted at the sled behind them, his words nearly lost in the wind that was already whipping at the trees. “Stay close to me! Don’t - “ then he swore.
“What? What is it?”
“Sorry - I think they’re turning back! We’ve come too far - blast it.” He hesitated for a moment, thinking. The snow was falling heavily now; Anna realised with alarm that she could only see a few yards in front of them - then only a few feet. Her thoughts were rudely interrupted when Kristoff grabbed a rug from the back of the sled and threw it on her lap.
“Cover up and hold on. We’re going to go fast now.”
Chapter 2: Chapter 2 (anywhere but in between)
After a few minutes Anna was glad of the rug. The snow was whirling fast now, biting and stinging any exposed skin, carrying away sound and allowing only glimpses of the road ahead. All she could see of the man beside her were his eyes, hard with concentration between his hat brim and his scarf. How did he know where they were going? How did his reindeer keep its footing?
Just as she thought that, the sled lurched and she had to cling to the bench to prevent herself from being thrown out. Kristoff shouted and jumped up. “Stay there,” she just heard him say, before he was on his feet in the snow and grabbing the reindeer’s harness, swinging up onto its back.
She didn’t know how much longer they travelled for. Every way she looked seemed the same to her, and the snow hurt her eyes, so after a while she just pulled the rug down over her head and gripped the edge of the sled seat.
Eventually the sled jerked again and stopped. Anna peered out from under the rug. Were they stuck? But no - Kristoff was by the side of the sled, and he held out his hand to her. “Your highness? Come on.”
She took his hand and was pulled down into the snow. It was deep, almost up to her knees, but she managed to take a few struggling steps, and then there was a wall, and he was opening a door; and he pushed her through and the wind stopped.
Or rather, the wind was now outside, for she was inside. Inside a small, single-room log cabin.
“Do you know how to light a fire?” Kristoff said, urgently.
“Yes - of course.”
He ducked outside again and returned a minute later to drop the birdcage in the middle of the floor. “All right. You do that, and I’m going to see about the other sled. I think they turned back, but - I’ll be back, okay? Keep warm.”
He headed for the door.
“Wait!” Anna called after him.
“What is it?”
“Whose house is this?”
He gave her a strange look. “Mine,” he said, and then he was gone, slamming the door behind him.
There was a small window by the door but Anna couldn’t see anything out of it, just whirling snow. Presumably he knew what he was doing but she didn’t see at all how he could find anyone. But then, she wouldn’t have seen how he could find this cabin - his cabin - in this storm, and yet here she was.
The fire in the woodstove was already neatly laid. The tinderbox was close at hand, too, and she was able to get the fire started quickly; once the relief of being out of the wind had passed, she had realised that the cabin was still very cold, and knelt on the hearth while the room warmed.
Her birds sat on their perches, their heads under their wings. Elsa had said they wouldn’t melt, but Anna kept them away from the woodstove anyway. Should she send a message to say they were alright? No, not just yet. She knew the birds wouldn’t freeze in the storm but she supposed they could still get lost.
No Mrs Bjorgman. That was plain to see, when there was only one chair at the small table, a narrow single bed against one wall. Everything was neat and clean enough, but sparse. Anna had told herself she wasn’t going to be nosy but there wasn’t really anything in here to be nosy about.
The room was warmer now, and she spread the rug over the back of the chair to dry. It must be late afternoon but she still couldn’t see anything out of the small window. Anna kicked off her boots and lay down on the bed, staring into the fire. What would she do if he didn’t come back?
A thump, and a blast of cold air, and there was a man in her bedroom - but no, this wasn’t her bedroom. Anna sat bolt upright and tried to look awake.
“I got as far as the ridge,” Kristoff said, shutting the door behind him and walking over to check on the fire. “No sign of them. No tracks, but then ours are covered too. They’re probably home by now.”
“Okay,” Anna said. “So what do we do?”
“Wait. This’ll pass in a day or two at the most. Sven and the sled are in the stable. Are you hungry?”
“Might as well eat something, then try and get some sleep.”
He went over to the shelves on the wall and started moving things around. Anna looked at the single bed and then stood hurriedly.
“Um. Where do I sleep?” she asked.
“In my bed,” he said casually, putting some things on the table.
Kristoff’s expression changed, and his face turned bright red. “I mean - I'll sleep in the stable. You can sleep in my bed, and I'll sleep in the stable, I didn't mean…”
“It's okay! I knew what you meant,” she lied, aware that her own cheeks were also blazing hot. “But you don't have to do that, I can sleep on the floor -”
“It's fine. I've slept in worse places than stables.” He turned back to the shelf. “And I'm sure your sister wouldn't want us sleeping alone in the same room.”
“We're alone in the same room now.” And then she nearly bit off her own tongue, because why did she say that? This was awkward enough without her making it worse .
Fortunately he elected to ignore her, just finished preparing their simple meal and then pulled out the chair and waited for her to sit.
“Thank you - but if I get the bed, you should get the chair -”
“Only one of us is royalty,” he replied, taking a piece of bread and leaning against the wall to eat.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
(well I know I don't know you and you're probably not what you seem)
Anna dreamt there was a beast, a wolf or something like it, prowling, snarling. It circled her, round and round, but she was safe as long as she didn’t move. At first it was hard but the longer she lay still, the easier it got, until she was fast asleep.
She woke the next morning to the sound of the door opening. The storm still raged outside, and she ducked her head back under the blankets against the rush of cold air.
“I’m sorry,” Kristoff said, “I didn’t think you would still be sleeping.” He hesitated just inside the door.
“It’s alright,” she replied, “I was just about to get up,” even though that wasn’t true. It was his house, she couldn’t stop him coming in. She had no idea what time it was but the sun seemed to be up so she probably should be awake, though for what she wasn't sure.
Kristoff nodded and went over to the woodstove, carefully keeping his back to her as she pulled herself out of the bed and straightened the covers. “Do you think the storm will be over soon?” she said, to fill the silence.
“It’s starting to calm down a little,” he said. “Hopefully it will end today and we can be on our way tomorrow. Did you sleep okay?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He nodded and apparently conversation time was over.
The storm finally passed in the afternoon. After they had lunch Anna noticed the light from the window was lighter; then a little while later it was just normal snow falling, then that too finished. Now the light from outside was so bright it hurt her eyes, gleaming off the white snow that covered everything.
No sooner had it finished than Kristoff jumped up and went outside to dig a new path to the stable. Anna pulled on her boots and cloak to join him - to at least get some fresh air - but before she could reach the door Kristoff was opening it again.
“Anna? I think this is for you.”
As he held the door open, a bird flew in - one of Elsa’s little ice birds, a message strapped to its leg. Anna put out her hand and it landed neatly on her finger. Kristoff watched her, his head tilted slightly to one side, as the bird let her remove the scrap of paper and unfold it.
Anna the other sled returned pls let me know immed. you are safe Elsa
“It's from my sister,” she said. “I'll send something back. Where's my writing desk?”
He shrugged. “In the stable with the other boxes, I guess. Just a moment.”
He was still looking strangely at the bird, and Anna put it quickly in the cage with the others. When he returned with her writing desk she thanked him, and opened it on the table to write a reply.
Am v safe with KB shall we return to Arendelle Anna
Tying it onto the bird proved tricky, and after a few minutes it got fed up with her and twittered a bit, then took the message in its beak. It hopped over to the door and stood there waiting to be let out.
Kristoff opened the door and it flew away. He shut it again and then turned to Anna.
“They're magic, aren't they.”
Anna fussed with her desk. “They're just birds.”
“Normal birds can't find people, and they don't wait for a door to be opened. And they need to be fed. You don't even have any food for them. They don't have any water, even.”
She opened her mouth and shut it again.
“It's okay, I won't tell anyone. Do you have an enchanter at the palace?”
“You believe in magic?”
“No. I just know it exists.”
“Who made the birds?”
“I can't tell you that.”
There was a tap at the door. They looked at each other, then Kristoff opened it cautiously. The bird was back.
“That's impressive,” he said. “Why didn't you just have them fly you over the mountain?”
No if cannot reach Blackstad stay where you are DO NOT return to Arendelle
By the time Anna had read that much, there was another tap, another bird.
Repeat DO NOT RETURN if you are safe there then stay will send when is safe E
“She says I mustn’t go back,” Anna said. “It’s not safe.”
“And yet she stays,” Kristoff replied.
“That’s different. She’s the queen, if she leaves she’s abandoning her country. And it was me they threatened, anyway.”
Anna read the last note again. If you are safe there then stay. Stay where, here? For how long?
“It’s too late to go anywhere today,” Kristoff said. “We’ll try for Blackstad in the morning. Either they’ll be waiting for you or there’ll be somewhere you can stay until they come back.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Another night. Another night with a stranger sleeping in his bed, though of course she was less of a stranger now. The princess was not what he had expected; though to be fair, when he was hired for this job he hadn’t really thought of her as a person at all. More as some sort of valuable cargo, to be conveyed to its destination.
There was still a fair amount of that; a pile of boxes that he’d stacked next to the sled. He’d repack it in the morning, then they could see if the road through the pass was open. If not, they might be able to get through with just Sven. Otherwise…
Well, better to cross that bridge when they came to it. Here in the valley it was hard to judge the severity of the storm, and how deep the snow might be further on. Only one way to find out.
Admittedly, it had been a while since he’d come this way. But it had been this year, hadn’t it? This time last year at the latest. There had been a clear path through, wide enough for the sled.
Now, though, it wasn’t so easy.
Kristoff told Anna to stay in the sled while he investigated but he didn’t have much hope in her actually doing it. She did sit for a minute; but when he didn’t come straight back she stood, then hopped down.
“Is everything okay?”
“Mm. We might not be able to get the sled through.”
“I thought this was a road.”
“It was. Looks like some rocks have fallen down, and now of course it’s covered in snow. I expect we can get through with Sven, though.”
“And leave the sled here?”
“No - let me just see how bad it is, then we can see what we need to do. Stay here.”
She stood, with her hands folded demurely, and watched him climb up onto the lowest rocks. They were slippery with ice and it was hard going. How had they got so icy? He didn’t know if Sven would be able to make it up here, and it was a long way to Blackstad if they were walking. They’d need to go back for more supplies, at least.
“Can you go up the side?”
“What?” He tried to step from one rock to another, catching himself before he overbalanced.
“Over there. It looks smoother.”
“That probably makes it more difficult, not less.”
“I bet I can do it.”
“You stay there.”
“No, I’m sure I can. Let me try.”
He rolled his eyes and looked for a better foothold. Then he realised why the rocks were so slippery. There had been a stream along the other side of the path, above the pass; the rocks’ movement must have shifted it slightly to cross the path, and now it had frozen.
“Look out for ice,” he called over to where Anna was scrabbling about.
“The stream has thrown a lot of spray about, look out for ice -”
Kristoff glanced sideways. Anna had a foot on one rock, and another on a second that was some distance away, and was biting her lip as she tried to work out what to do now. He shook his head and turned back to his own challenge. He was becoming afraid that it was impossible.
“Here’s the stream,” he heard Anna say to herself. “I wonder if it’s frozen solid? Okay. Big step -”
And then a squeal, and a crack, and a splash.
She tried to reply, but her teeth were chattering too hard. Stupid, stupid. Well, it nearly worked. If she could try again -
And then he was there, grabbing her elbows and pullling her to her feet.
“Did you fall in the water?”
“...a little bit?”
“You look like you went right under.”
Kristoff groaned. “Come on, then. Home. Now.”
“I think I have the measure of it now, let me try again -”
“While you freeze to death?” As he spoke he was leading - almost dragging - her back to the sled. “You’re soaked.” And then he swore - Anna didn’t know the word, but she knew swearing when she heard it.
“I’m fine -”
“Anna!” He bundled her onto the sled seat and climbed up beside her. “Do you have any idea - you need to get out of those wet clothes, okay? This is serious.”
They were moving fast already, bumping back along the path, and okay, she was pretty cold now. She tried to pull her cloak round her but it was soaking and just seemed to make her feel worse; but the cold air on her other clothes was just as bad.
“As soon as we get in, I’ll get the fire going, then you need to undress,” Kristoff said, not looking at her. Was he blushing? “Everything, whatever princesses wear under their dresses, I don’t know. You have some dry clothes in your trunk, right? I’ll - you wrap yourself in a blanket and I’ll put them through the door. Okay?”
“I can’t,” Anna forced out past her chattering teeth. “I can’t take everything off.”
“What kind of man do you think I am -”
“It’s not that! I just, I can’t. I need Birgitta to help me and she’s not here. My, my corset, it laces at the back. I can’t undo it myself.”
They drove on a bit more in silence.
“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t,” Anna said after a moment. “And I could - I mean. It’s just the lacing, if you loosen it, I can get it off without you. And I can put it back on, not as well as Birgitta does, but well enough.”
This was supposed to have been a quick job. Easy money. Two days there, hand her over, two days back. Stock up on a few things in Arendelle for winter, then go home.
Now he was kneeling on the rug, in front of a fire as hot as he could make it, trying to work out how a princess’s underwear was held together.
The knots were tight and small, and Kristoff was half-tempted to get out his knife and slice through the whole lot - but then Anna wouldn’t be able to put it back on again. She waited, kneeling in front of him with her head bowed, and he was glad to see that she was starting to shiver as she warmed up but it still wasn’t exactly helpful. She held a blanket against her front, and of course she had her shift under the corset, but this still felt - wrong. Surely the Royal Guard was going to barge in at any moment and drag him off to the dungeons.
Anna’s plaits hung forward, leaving a pale triangle of skin on the back of her neck. When he put a hand on her shoulder to steady her his thumb brushed her bare skin and she shivered again.
Finally Kristoff got out his knife and managed to use the point to unpick and loosen the tightest part of the knot. Then he was able to undo it, and loosen the lacing all the way down. Anna held up her arms and he lifted the corset over her head.
“You have some dry clothes in one of those trunks, right?” he said.
“Yes, yes - somewhere - I didn’t pack them - but if you could find me a dry shift -” she shivered again and moved to pull the blanket all the way round herself.
“I’ll bring one in and you can find what you need.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
Before leaving he put a kettle of water on to boil - no harm in being warm on the inside as well.
When he got back into the cabin a few minutes later, Anna was standing, arranging her clothes to dry. She’d put her frock over the back of the chair and was spreading it out; her corset stood to one side (Kristoff couldn’t imagine wearing a piece of clothing that could stand up by itself but it hadn’t seemed to bother her).
And her shift was hanging from the side of the table. If she’d taken it off, then that meant that, under the blanket casually tucked under her arms, she was naked.
He could feel himself blushing. Everyone’s naked underneath their clothes , he told himself. You can’t see anything more than you could if she was wearing a ballgown that showed her shoulders. Grow up.
Kristoff put the trunk down by the side of the room, and undid the clasps to open it. Anna rushed over, nearly tripping over the trailing blanket. She steadied herself on his arm then sat down to rummage through the neatly folded clothes.
“I’ll wait outside while you dress,” he said, turning back to the door.
“Oh, no, it’s fine! You don’t have to stand in the cold. I’ll have a shift on in one minute, just turn your back.”
He had opened his mouth to explain why he absolutely could not do that when the kettle whistled. He went over to take it off the heat, and heard the blanket crumpling to the floor behind him.
Make some tea, Kristoff, you know how to make tea. Tea. Teapot. Cups. Staring straight ahead at all times. It’s easy.
There was the sound of more rummaging about, cloth moving, bare feet on the wooden floor. And Anna’s narration. “Where is it….here we go….yes. Okay, why are the buttons done up when the next thing I’m going to do is put it on, why wouldn’t you put it away with the buttons undone? But, okay, there we go. Buttons. Ugh, my hair is soaking . If I put the blanket round me in a minute and put my hair on top - but I should brush it out so it dries - I wonder where my hairbrush is. Oh! It’s here! That’s handy, I didn’t know this trunk had a pocket there. Last button. That’s better! Blanket, okay. You can turn round now.”
She was sitting on the rug, by the fire, with the blanket covering her almost completely, undoing one of her plaits. A silver-backed hairbrush sat beside her.
“So we can’t get to Blackstad,” she said, and “Thank you,” as he put the cup of tea down next to her.
“No. Not soon, at any rate.”
“And I can’t go back to Arendelle.” Anna picked up her hairbrush and fiddled with it “So. I guess I have to stay here. If, if that’s okay.”
“I guess it has to be.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
The birds flew back and forth a few times.
“Isn’t she worried about your reputation?” Kristoff asked. Anna had used the times they were waiting for the bird to sort through her clothes and find a dry outfit, and now she was fully dressed again and brushing out her damp hair.
“I’ve already been here two nights,” she said matter-of-factly. “I don’t think a few more matter. And she trusts you, or she wouldn’t have sent me with you in the first place.”
“But what will other people think?”
“Whatever they want. I don’t care,” and she tossed her head.
When he looked sceptical she continued, “You’re still my guide and I’m kind of still on my journey. We’ve just, paused for a bit. It still counts. It’s okay.”
“If you’re sure.”
Anna knelt by the trunk and put away her hairbrush. “And I’m sorry. I’m sleeping in your bed and eating your food. I’m sure this isn’t how you wanted to spend your winter.” She stood, and pushed the trunk against the wall.
“And what do you want?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you want to go home?”
“Elsa said -”
“I know what Elsa said. What do you want?”
Kristoff watched her open and shut her mouth a couple of times. He wondered whether anyone had actually asked her before.
“I have to go and get married,” she said. “I mean, that’s what I want. I guess I can wait a while. But that’s, you know. What I want to do.”
“To this Prince James.”
“You’d better hope the pass opens, then.”
That was what she wanted, wasn't it? Her handsome prince. Well, everyone said he was, Anna hadn't actually had a chance to judge for herself yet. Everything had happened so quickly and she was secretly a little glad of this breathing space. Even in this tiny cabin that smelt of reindeer, in the middle of a snowdrift, miles from anywhere.
She couldn't make Kristoff sleep in the stable every night but she didn't know what the solution was. She didn't fancy sleeping in the stable herself, though she knew that was selfish.
Anna tried to get to sleep and wondered who had made the patchwork quilt she was lying underneath.
The next morning Kristoff went out to the shed to feed Sven and didn’t return. After a while Anna got bored and went to find him; he was in the shed, arranging some pieces of wood on the floor.
“What are you doing?”
“Hmm? Finding what I need.”
“To do what? What you need to do what.”
“Make another chair.”
“You made the other one?”
“Wow!” Anna pulled herself up and perched on the side of Sven’s stall. The reindeer pushed his head into her hand and she scratched his nose.
“So what do I do?”
He looked at her, watching him with hopeful eyes. “I don’t know. What do you do?”
“No, I mean. You have all these things to do in winter. What can I help you with? I can do lots of things.”
“Can you make furniture?”
“Can you cook?”
“Not really. I can learn!”
“What can you do?”
She looked him in the eye. “I speak three languages fluently and can converse in a further two. I can sing, play the piano, and dance. I know the correct way to address all levels of the nobility. I can embroider, knit, draw, paint with watercolours and work tapestry. I can ride. I respond to the majority of the Queen’s correspondence. And my table manners are exceptional .”
“Well, those are all very important skills -” Kristoff opened his tool box and rummaged through it - “But I’m not sure if I need any of them right now. If a duke drops by for tea I’ll let you know.”
“Dukes are Your Grace.”
“And I can do a lot of things, I can be helpful!”
“OK.” He selected the tool he needed and picked up a piece of wood.
“Do you need me to hold something? Or hand you things?”
“I'm fine. Go back inside.”
“I am inside.” Anna waited but he didn't say anything more. She drummed her heels against the wall of Sven’s stall. “Does it take long to make a chair?”
Kristoff sighed. “Not if I can concentrate.”
He expected her to carry on talking, but instead she jumped straight down, said “I'm sorry, I'll leave you alone,” and was gone before he could reply.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Kristoff carried on with the chair. He'd been planning to make some new shelves with this wood, but another chair was clearly more pressing, and he'd been early on enough in his plans that it wouldn't take much to adapt them. Except that now he really couldn't concentrate.
She's fine, or anyway, if she isn't it's her own fault. Let her learn that I don't want her talking at me all the time, he told himself. It's not as if she can go far and she can come back any time she likes.
She'll be back in a minute.
But Anna wasn't, and he couldn't even hear where she might be. He hadn't heard the door of the cabin shut. Eventually he put his file down and put his head out of the door - just to check she hadn't done something stupid. Fallen in a crevasse or something.
When he found her, Anna was halfway up a pine tree. She was muttering to herself, and she didn't look completely secure, but she had managed to get quite high and if she fell she'd only land in a snowdrift, so Kristoff just stood and watched her. He had to admit, he was a little bit impressed.
Then Anna turned to grab a branch and saw him. She froze, then said in a small voice, “I'm sorry, I'm coming down, I'll be right there.”
“Don't worry about me,” he replied, wondering why she was acting like she was in trouble. “Climb as many trees as you want. Though try not to break your neck, that might cause me some inconvenience.”
Anna hesitated, then reached for a higher branch. “I thought you were too busy to talk to me.”
“I was. I am. I just thought I'd better find out where you were.”
“Well, now you know.”
“I suppose I do.”
He turned to go back to the shed, then paused. “The branches get thinner the higher you go,” he said. “Be careful.”
“I'm not going to fall out of the tree.”
“That's okay, then. See you later.”
She didn't fall out of the tree. In fact, when Kristoff went back to the cabin at noon, he found the floor swept, the shelves dusted and tidied, and the ice birds sitting in a row on the headboard while Anna wiped out their cage.
He put the second chair by the table. It wasn't finished to the same standard as the first, but it would do. He could always smarten it up a bit later.
The birds twittered to each other. They really were amazingly lifelike, if you thought a bird could be trained as well as a dog or a horse.
“I see now why the Queen isn't afraid to remain in Arendelle,” he said. “With such powerful magic to protect her.”
“I'm surprised anyone would even dare consider an attack.”
“Oh, it's a secret. Only we - only a few people know.”
“Seems like it would be easier if it wasn't. A secret, I mean.”
Anna shrugged again. “That's up to Elsa.”
He laughed. “A lot of things seem to be.”
“Well, she's the Queen.”
Anna held the cage door open and the little birds spread their wings and flew, in a neat line, back inside.
“And then you could go home,” Kristoff sId.
“And get out of your way.”
“That's not what I meant. You don't have to do my housework, anyway.”
“I have to do something. I can't just - sit.”
“I'll think about it. I'll find you something.”
That afternoon Kristoff went to the shed and fetched Anna’s other trunk so she could decide what she needed inside and what could stay outside. Then he went back out, and returned with something else.
“You said you can knit,” he said, and dropped a sack at Anna’s feet. It looked like a cushion but it landed with a ‘clonk’ on the wooden floor.
“Yes!” Anna said eagerly. “I can knit, I can knit socks and sweaters and scarfs and hats, I'm a good knitter, I make lots of things.”
Kristoff waited patiently for her to stop talking. “You said you can knit,” he repeated, “can you spin?”
“Yes! My mother had a spinning wheel, a really pretty one. She showed me how, I'm not super even but I'm okay. I'll go carefully. Where's your wheel?”
“No wheel.” He picked up the sack again and opened it. “Can you use a drop spindle?”
“Or I'll spin and you knit,” he continued, “but it'll take a while, I have other things that are more urgent.”
“I can do it. I mean I haven't before but I can, I'm sure. Drafting is the same, right?”
“And that's the tricky part.”
“I suppose so.”
Kristoff took the wooden spindle out of the sack, along with a handful of the carded fleece that filled the rest of it. He sat on the new chair and Anna watched as he hooked the fibre onto the spindle and set it spinning.
“Spin it like this,” he said, “and draft as it falls. When it's close to the floor, stop it, and wind it onto the shaft.” He demonstrated. “Then you do it again. And again and again.”
“I've never seen a man spin wool before,” Anna said.
“There isn’t usually anyone else here to do it,” Kristoff said, handing her the spindle and the wool. Anna bit her lip and tried to spin.
“When it's full you can wind it off and ply it,” he said.
“Then knit it.”
“Then wash it to set the twist. Then knit it.”
“OK.” The tip of Anna’s tongue poked out of her mouth as she concentrated. “This isn't so hard. I can do this. Just you watch.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Anna muttered, brows furrowed. She took a steadying breath, then spun the spindle so hard the yarn snapped and it flew across the room and bounced off the side of the woodstove.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
So, in theory, Anna understood why they couldn’t sleep in the same room. To part of her mind, it was self-evident; of course they couldn’t, of course that would be wrong. But when you thought about it logically - well, if they wanted to do THAT there was plenty of opportunity; she understood the basics well enough to know that night-time or the proximity of a mattress weren’t essential elements. She certainly trusted Kristoff enough to have no fear about being asleep while he was in the room. So, technically, there was no reason for him to sleep in the stable every night. It wasn’t as if anyone would even find out .
But whenever she thought of suggesting that he make up another bed on the other side of the cabin, she found herself tongue-tied.
The weather turned colder.
For days the sky was clear, and the air temperature was so low that it almost seemed like a solid thing , sharp and painful on the face and hands. Anna had no reason to go out, so she didn’t; the woodstove kept the cabin at least warm enough to sit in. She span the wool, and plied it, because there was nothing else to do. Small movements in a small space.
The only heating in the stable was courtesy of the reindeer, but Kristoff still contrived to spend as much time out there as possible, even after the weather warmed a little. One morning he came into the cabin to drop an armful of firewood, then left again immediately and didn’t come back; Anna, left alone, stewed on it until he came back for their midday meal.
“Why don’t you want to stay in here with me?”
“What do you mean?”
“What I said.”
“I’ve got things to do outside.”
“You’re just avoiding me.”
Anna stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew she was just tired from sitting, irritable from being just slightly too cold for days on end, fed up of looking at these walls. But she couldn’t help herself.
“You are. You wish I wasn’t here. Well, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing you can do about it.”
“So you DO wish I wasn’t -”
“That’s not what I said! I had some things to do outside, but I can stay in here this afternoon if you’d rather.”
“Don’t bother on my account.”
It might have ended there, if Kristoff hadn’t made the mistake of rolling his eyes as he turned away.
“Well, maybe I don’t like being stuck here with you, any more than you like being stuck with me!”
He sighed. “Is that so. Not that I said that, remember.”
“Well, I’m going. You don’t want me here, I’m going.”
“Home! You asked me what I want, that’s what I want. I want to go home. I don’t need you, I don’t need anybody. I’ll walk. ”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You don’t think I’ll do it?” She grabbed her boots from by the door and stamped them on, pulled her hat and cape off the hook on the wall. “I’m going. I’m gone. Goodbye.”
She heard him say her name as she slammed the door behind her but she didn’t turn back.
The ridge was further than it looked. Even if Anna stayed against the side of the mountain, where the snow was shallowest, it was hard going. By the time she was at the top and looking down into the other valley she was exhausted.
And she had worn out her anger, now. It never lasted long, anyway, and now she was cold and tired.
She couldn't even see Arendelle from here. She'd thought she would be able to, but there was another ridge in front of her, and she realised she had no idea how far they’d come on the sled in that snowstorm. Had she even walked in the right direction away from the cabin? She couldn’t see that from here, either, but she could always follow her footprints back.
It was dusk - she’d forgotten how early it got dark. As she turned the last corner to the cabin she saw the door open, and Kristoff come out. He was dressed for the snow, and had a rope and a lantern. When he saw her he stopped short.
Explanations and apologies died in her throat. He held the door open and they both went back inside.
Kristoff stayed in the cabin that evening longer than he usually did, cleaning his woodworking tools while Anna cast on for his sweater (and she would never take a skein of yarn for granted again, now she fully understood how much work it was to make it).
And when he finally said goodnight and left for the stable, he was back a minute later.
“Come with me,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
Anna thought he must mean the aurora, the lights. She’d seen that many times before, of course, but on a clear night like this one it would still be beautiful, so she pulled on her boots eagerly. But once she got outside she saw there were no lights tonight. Kristoff, holding a lantern, led her round the back of the cabin and, to her surprise, climbed onto the top of the logpile cover. “Come on,” he said, holding out his hand, and when she took it he pulled her up with him.
Then he climbed onto the roof, and again pulled her up. But it didn’t feel like standing on a roof; the wood was covered with thick turf, so it was more like a little piece of mountainside that had pushed itself up into the sky somehow.
Kristoff dropped the shade on his lantern and everything went dark.
Except it wasn’t. As Anna’s eyes adjusted to the loss of the candle she realised that there was plenty of light - and she turned her face up to the sky, and gasped out loud.
The sky was full of stars. Not in the way it normally was, at home - but full of stars, with barely a hint of black between them. A thick stripe across the centre didn’t fade any darker than a deep purple, with blues and indigos on either side. The range of colour was incredible and the whole thing was glowing and she felt like she could have looked at it forever.
“I know in the town you can’t see it as well,” Kristoff said softly. “Too many lamps and fireplaces and things. And you said you’d never been outside Arendelle before and it’s a clear night and I thought you might want to see. It’s pretty.”
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Anna replied.
He laughed. “You live in a castle.”
“It’s still true.”
She stepped back, still looking at the stars, and stumbled on the uneven roof; before she could fall, however, an arm caught her round the shoulders and steadied her. She held her breath as it lingered for a few seconds before withdrawing, leaving her steady and also somehow warmer.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
“Where are you going?”
The day was clear. It hadn’t snowed in almost a week, and the snow glinted in white, even dunes as far as the eye could see. And Kristoff had come back inside, an hour after breakfast, and asked if Anna could manage for the day by herself if he went somewhere.
“I’ll be back before dark. Probably long before.”
“Can I come?”
“Because last time you nearly drowned, then you nearly froze to death.”
Anna put her head on one side. “You’re going to try the pass again? But it was too slippy.”
“There’s a good few layers of snow now. I’m just going to take a look. I should’ve looked at it before now, really. I’ll take Sven and see if we can make it over. If you’ll be alright by yourself.”
“Yes, of course. Don’t worry about me.”
He smiled, and went back outside. Anna stood still a moment, listening, and heard the muffled footsteps of the reindeer fade away.
She was still on her way to Blackstad. Of course. How had she forgotten that? Not that anyone would be waiting for her there, after all this time, but there would be an inn or somewhere she could stay until someone could be summoned to collect her. That was what she was supposed to be doing.
Things change, over time. Dreams and thoughts and feelings, gradually evolving, so slowly you might not even notice. The idea she’d had before, about what her future would look like, had lost its shine somewhere along the way, and she didn’t even know when or how.
The day seemed long. Anna did what chores she could, then she did some knitting; then she went outside for some fresh air, but the air was a little too fresh, so she went back inside and knit on the sweater some more. It was coming along nicely; only the yoke and the collar to finish now. She was glad, and the thought of leaving it behind for him made her happy but also sad. Mainly sad, when she thought about it for too long, so she tried not to.
She was just putting her needles down to go and check there wasn’t anything that needed doing in the shed - a person could only sit still for so long - when she thought she heard reindeer footsteps again outside and went running out to greet them.
But Kristoff and Sven weren’t in the shed. Puzzled, Anna walked back out and round the side of the building, and there they were, a little distance off - but they’d stopped, which was odd. She took a step towards them. Why was he sitting like that, slumped forward over the reindeer?
And then she started running, because she saw the blood.
Anna managed to lead Sven over to the door of the cabin. Kristoff hadn’t said a word to her; he seemed to be using every single scrap of energy to stop himself falling. Once they were as close to the cabin as they could be, Anna helped him down and managed to steer his collapse so that he ended up mostly on the bed.
“What happened?” she said, as she cast about for something to use as bandages.
“Fell,” Kristoff said through clenched teeth. “Idiot. Me, not you.”
Anna made a rip in a spare petticoat with a knife and started tearing off strips. “You just hit your head? Nowhere else?”
He nodded, then winced. He was already looking pale and there was blood everywhere but the wound looked clean, at least - she hoped - all she knew how to do was try and keep the blood in, so she pressed a wad of the fabric against where the bleeding seemed to be coming from and tried to strap it down.
“You should have let me come with you,” she said, concentrating on tying the ends of the bandage. She got no reply. “Kristoff?”
His eyes were closed, his breathing shallow. What more could she do? She pulled off his boots and covered him with a blanket, but he didn’t move.
When finally she remembered Sven, and left briefly to put him safely in the shed, she returned to find that Kristoff had not stirred. The bleeding seemed to have stopped - at least, it hadn’t soaked all the way through the top bandage - so Anna carefully washed his face with a scrap of the destroyed petticoat, and pulled her chair closer to the side of the bed.
Outside, snow began to fall.
What if he dies?
He’s not going to die.
Yes, but what if he does?
She couldn’t fetch help. She didn’t even know in what direction help might be found; there must be other people living up here, but she had no idea where they were. Arendelle was so far, and she wasn’t sure how to hitch the reindeer to the sled, or what direction to go, or whether she should leave him in the first place.
She could send a bird, of course. It had been so long since she’d last sent one to Arendelle that it had taken a moment to occur to her, but that was what she would have to do. Perhaps she should send one now - but to what end? It would just make Elsa worry.
He was going to be fine, anyway. Of course he was going to be fine. So there was no need.
“Anna?” It was hardly even a whisper, barely more than a breath, but she heard it. Anna dropped her knitting and went over to sit on the side of the bed. Kristoff was still pale, his breathing a little laboured, but his eyes were open and focussed on her.
“You’re here,” he said.
“Where else would I be?” she said, blinking hard against the tears that were welling up from somewhere. “There’s still two foot of snow outside.”
He smiled. “I thought I dreamt you,” he said. His eyes drifted shut again. “What happened?” he asked.
“You hit your head. Um. It bled a lot.”
He nodded, and winced.
“But you’ll be alright now,” Anna continued. “I bandaged it up and I think the bleeding stopped. So you’ll be fine. Just, just stay there.”
“Mmm.” Kristoff seemed to be drifting off, then his eyes snapped open again. “Don’t go sleep outside. Princesses, can’t sleep in stables. No…”
“I couldn’t if I wanted to,” Anna said. “It’s snowed so much since I put Sven away - I don’t think I could even open the door.”
“’m in your bed,” he said, barely above a whisper.
“It was always your bed,” she replied, but he was asleep.
The fire was burning low, but the room was warm. The relief of having seen him awake, talking to her, washed over Anna and suddenly she was exhausted. Adrenaline had sustained her through the work earlier, and kept her awake this long, but now she was weary to her bones. Where was she going to sleep, though? On the floor?
Kristoff was lying on the side of the bed by the wall. Without thinking about it at all, Anna lay down next to him and closed her eyes.
When she woke up in the morning, she knew.
The fire in the woodstove had burnt down, but Anna wasn’t cold - even with the blanket between them, Kristoff’s body heat was enough to keep her warm. His arm was lying loose across her side, but when she stirred he moved it in his sleep and now she could get up without disturbing him if she wanted to.
But she didn’t want to. Because she realised, as she watched him sleeping, that she didn’t want to leave his side, not ever. She loved him, and this tiny single bare room on the mountainside felt more like home than anywhere ever had.
No one had sent her a bird or a note in a long time. Maybe they’d forgotten about her? Maybe she could just - stay. If that was what he wanted.
A few more days passed. A week. Anna managed to get everything done that needed doing while Kristoff recovered; he was tired from the blood loss and a bit vague about how exactly he had hurt himself but he was improving and she could tell he would be completely well soon. Neither of them spoke about the pass, or Blackstad. They didn’t speak about how Kristoff had stopped sleeping in the stable, either.
The winter, which had gone on so long that Anna had almost forgotten it was just one season, was finally drawing to an end. The snow between the cabin and stable was worn away and turned to slush, then mud. Icicles dripped from the eaves. The pass must be open, but she didn’t dare say that out loud, and neither did he.
And then - a bird, an ice bird.
It tapped on the door, and when Anna let it in, it just chirped at her and tipped its head, before flying a short distance away. She tried to call it inside, but it just sat and watched her for a moment, then flew away and over the ridge.
An hour later it returned, but it wasn’t alone.
This time it wasn’t a tap on the door. It was a full knock, from a human fist; an alarming sound. Anna was alone in the cabin, sewing in the last ends on Kristoff’s sweater, and she nearly dropped it on the floor. Who could be here? Kristoff certainly wouldn’t knock.
She put down her work and opened the door, carefully. The knocker was a young man in a smart red jacket, looking tired and cold. He was holding the reins of his horse.
“Madam,” he said. “We are looking for Princess Anna of Arendelle. We have reason to believe she has been here - could you tell me where she is?”
Anna noticed the little bird, now, sitting on his shoulder. It cheeped at her.
“I’m Princess Anna,” she said. The guard looked her up and down. Anna squared her shoulders and gave him her most regal look, in the hope it would overcome the darn on her skirt, her messy plaits, the smudge of soot that was probably on her cheek.
The guard shrugged, and stepped back. “She’s here, your Highness,” he said, and it was then that Anna looked past him and saw that there were more men in the clearing. Two were with a sled piled with boxes, and one was riding a large white horse. His hat had plumes on it.
Kristoff had come out of the stable and was standing, watching, his breath clouding in the air.
The man on the horse leapt down and went straight into a deep bow. “Your Highness,” he said. “I am Prince James of Karlstad. I trust you will forgive our arriving unannounced, but this weary winter has for so long kept us apart. Now that the snows begin to recede, we thought to arrive and claim you, and bear you away from -” he looked around him, his lip curling slightly - “This place. I’m sure it has been a terrible trial for you.”
Anna curtsied. “It’s been - fine,” she said. “Um. Thank you.”
“My men will help you gather your things,” the prince said, “And then we can be on our way and make our camp before dark.”
“The pass is open? I thought…”
“Oh, the men had to clear a few rocks, but we opened it well enough! Enough to get the sled through for your luggage. Where is it?”
“Um. Mostly in the stable.” She waved a hand in the right direction. He wanted to go now? He wanted her to pack up and leave, right now?
“I’ll show you which is hers,” Kristoff said. He hadn’t spoken until now, and he looked only at Anna as he did. She nodded, quickly, not sure what else to do, and he turned on his heel and went into the stable. Two of the prince’s men followed him.
“Is that the peasant you’ve been here with?” Prince James said, his expression horrified. “I hope he has not - inconvenienced you at all, my lady?”
“Incon - no! No, he’s been very kind.”
“Are you sure? If you want I can have him thrashed, it’s no trouble at all -”
“No! Really. He’s been very kind and - everything has been fine, really. Um. Are you sure you don’t want to stay here, tonight? And get a fresh start in the morning?”
The prince looked round, his disdain clear on his face. “I think we’d better get away from here immediately,” he said. “Is there anything of yours inside?”
Her satchel was having on a nail on the wall. Anna shouldered it, then walked round the room, mechanically picking up her things and putting them in. He’d come for her, after all. As well he might; they were betrothed. The snowdrifts were, indeed, starting to melt. What else had she expected to happen?
Outside, the prince waited for Kristoff to come out of the stable, then grabbed his arm and held him in place.
“If you’ve ruined her I'll see you hanged,” he said conversationally. “The thought of a princess alone with a peasant for weeks makes my blood boil as it is. If I find out you've touched her -”
“I have treated her,” Kristoff cut in, “with nothing but the kindness and respect with which I would treat any woman, any person. She is quite pure enough for you, you needn't concern yourself about that.” He pulled his arm away. “Have you even asked her if she wants to go with you?”
“What a princess wants is no concern of yours.”
Anna walked out of the cabin. Both men looked at her.
“Do you have everything you need?” Kristoff asked. “Are you warm enough?”
“Yes - thank you.” She hesitated. “Kristoff, I -”
“My lady!” Prince James said. “We must be on our way, or we shall not make the camp by nightfall.”
“Yes - yes, of course.”
“You will ride with me.” He held out his hand.
“Oh - of course -” It was all happening so fast. What could she do, what could she do -
The Prince mounted his horse. One of his men took Anna’s satchel from her and boosted her up to sit in front. Nothing. She could do nothing.
As the horse started to move, Kristoff lurched forward, two or three almost running steps; and then he stopped. The prince reined in his horse. “Of course, I almost forgot,” he said, and took some coins out of the purse at his belt. “For your trouble,” he said, threw them at Kristoff without looking, and rode away.
The cabin was suddenly very empty and very quiet.
All Anna’s things - her shawl, her hairbrush, her journal - had been bundled up and taken away, and his own belongings suddenly looked too small for the space. His new sweater was lying on the bed. The second chair was looking at him and he wanted to throw it into the fire.
Then Kristoff noticed a little sound, one that he’d got used to over the winter but that now seemed out of place. The little tinkly tweeting from the birdcage in the corner. Anna’s birds, she’d forgotten her birds.
Without thinking he grabbed the cage and ran outside. The horses were gone, the trampled up mud and slush the only sign they had ever been there, so he ran a little way up the mountainside and fumbled at the cage door clasp. It pinged open and the first bird poked out its pointed beak and looked at him quizzically.
“Go to Anna,” he said. “I know you can find her, she needs you. Go to Anna, off you go. All of you.”
The birds shuffled out, one by one, and took flight. He watched as they circled for a moment, a shimmering murmuration against the setting sun, then formed an arrow and flew straight and true over the side of the mountain.
He left the cage where it fell and walked home.
The horses walked slowly. The ground was soft, and also Anna could tell they’d been pushed hard to get here and were tired. She sat between Princes James’s arms, and pulled her cloak around herself against the wind.
“Do not worry, your Highness,” he said. “Your ordeal is over. Soon you will be safe in your new home.”
“I was safe,” she said aloud. And I was home , she said in her head.
The prince didn’t reply. Anna turned a little and peeped behind them - nothing but white snow and brown slush, the little cabin long gone but she was sure she could find it. Her whole body felt itchy with the need to jump down and run back.
She turned to face forward again. The cold wind blew in her face and made her eyes water. Or at least that’s what she told herself.
It was getting dark. It wasn’t that late, surely? She wiped her eyes on the edge of her cloak and looked up to see what was blocking the sunlight.
Her birds. He’d sent her her birds.
She watched as the tiny flock swooped down, chirping and twittering to themselves. The guards behind them shouted and all the men reined in their horses. Anna laughed, leaning forward across the horse’s neck, and the birds flew to her, resting on her arms and shoulders and even her head. Their claws dug into her clothes and hair and she realised they were tugging at her.
The prince had let go of the reins to swat at the birds and Anna took the opportunity to slide down off the horse. She brushed away the birds that were in her hair but let the others pull her along. “I have to - I’m sorry,” she said. “I have to go back, I remembered something -”
“My lady,” the prince said, surprised and puzzled. “Where are you going -”
Once the birds realised she was going the way they wanted her to go - running, jumping over puddles but landing in a few anyway, trying not to trip over her skirts - they let go of Anna’s clothes and just flew alongside her. She realised that even though she was out of breath she was laughing with exhilaration - and she didn’t care about the from , the men and the questions and the plans other people had made for her future. All that mattered was the to.
The cabin looked the same as it always had. The birds lined themselves up along the eaves and put their heads under their wings, evidently feeling they had done what they needed to do and could now rest. Anna knocked on the door.
For a long moment there was silence. Then she heard the bolt shoot back, inside, and the door was wrenched open. Kristoff didn’t look surprised to see her, but he only opened the door part way and leant on the doorframe.
“What did you forget?”
“Nothing.” He stood, still looking at her, still not letting her in.
“I didn’t forget anything,” she repeated. “I remembered. I remembered what I want.”
He still didn’t seem to know exactly what she meant. So she stepped forward and pushed the door fully open; then she put her hands on his shoulders, and kissed him full on the lips.