“‘Elsa is in no way intended to replace your lost Rapunzel,’ she says,” King Thomas of Corona struggled for air on the name of his daughter, the princess who had been stolen out of her cradle. She had been missing for so many years, but the loss was as fresh as that first morning when she was discovered gone.
Queen Primrose took the letter out of her husband’s hand before he crumpled it too much to read. The letter had arrived with the merchant ship from Arendelle. The little white-haired girl standing forlorn before them had arrived with the letter.
Primrose reread the handwriting of the Queen Genevieve of Arendelle, Thomas’s sister. The queen of Arendelle had written in a tidy, restrained hand. Primrose wondered how her sister-in-law had been able to keep her hand steady while writing such a ghastly letter.
To His Highness, King Thomas of Corona
My dear brother,
A time has come when I must call on you for the favor you once promised to me. I am sending you the princess, your goddaughter, my eldest child Elsa. I am sending her into your keeping, for the time being.
As you are bereft of your own daughter, I feel that she would be a comfort to you and Queen Primrose. She is a quiet and obedient girl. Elsa will benefit from time spent in Corona, learning of her cousin country. I recall our days as children, the excellent education we were given, and the happiness of Corona’s temperate climate. These will all be a great benefit to Elsa.
There was some small difficulty with Elsa and my younger child, Anna, this winter, and Marius and I feel that a separation of the sisters is the most sensible course for the well being of all.
Elsa is in no way intended to replace your lost Rapunzel. I pray your nightmare may pass and that may Rapunzel be returned to you soon.
Genevieve of Arendelle
Queen Primrose looked little Elsa over. It wasn’t enough comfort to the girl that the monarchs of Corona had received her in the cozier surroundings of the solarium, instead of the formal audience chamber. The poor child was a pale wisp, standing in the sunlight of the window with a look that said she would prefer the anonymity of shadows.
King Thomas pounded his fist on the carved arm of his chair with sudden, loud vigor. “Unconscionable!” he cursed.
Elsa’s bright blue eyes grew wide and she shrunk further into herself.
“How could they send a child on a sea voyage alone! And send her to foster here, with no warning!”
“Thomas, you’re scaring the girl,” Primrose scolded softly. She put the letter down on a table and moved toward the princess of Arendelle. “Elsa, child,” she said, reaching toward the princess. She stopped when Elsa stepped back to avoid being touched. “Oh.” She cast a look at her husband. He was fuming still, though silently now. Primrose felt some of the same anger that she imagined Thomas was feeling, but she saved it to vent later in privacy with her husband. “Elsa, why don’t you come with me? We’ll choose a room for you.”
She had never seen the child before today except in one of the paintings sent to hang in the castle’s halls. King Marius was fair with golden hair, but his eldest daughter’s hair and complexion were as white as new milk. As Primrose led the young princess toward the castle’s sleeping chambers, she sneaked glances at the girl.
The girl followed after Primrose down the corridor like a petite ghost. Elsa was nearly the same age as Rapunzel. The princess of Arendelle had been born the winter after the princess of Corona was abducted, only seven months after Rapunzel's first birthday. The birth of his niece had been a difficult visit to Arendelle for King Thomas. Primrose had remained behind in Corona, the sensible thing to do, so that one of them would be present if the searchers had found princess Rapunzel.
“Here, this one is not far from my own bedroom.” Primrose directed Elsa toward one of the rooms ever ready for guests. This one had a beautiful view of the calm bay and of morning sun, which Primrose thought might cheer the girl during her stay. “What do you think of it?” she asked.
Elsa glided through the doors. She stopped just past the doorway. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” she said in a wan voice.
“Are you sure you like this one?” Primrose nudged. “Do you want to see one or two more before you decide?”
“No thank you, Your Majesty.”
“Elsa. You may call me Aunt Primrose.”
The girl looked at Primrose with eyes that were piercing with sadness. “Thank you, Aunt Primrose,” she said. There was no warmth in her small voice.
Primrose refrained from shaking her head in dismay. “You must be quite tired, Elsa. We’ll have your luggage brought to your room later. Why don’t you rest until dinner is called? Is there anything you would like for now?”
Elsa looked around the room. Her gloved hands clasped together tightly. “I would like to write a letter for my sister,” she said, “before the ship leaves. May I have ink and paper?”
“Of course!” Primrose sighed inwardly. “You can write to your sister every week if you like. We have ships sailing north on a schedule.”
A glimmer of real gratitude brightened the girl’s eyes. “Thank you, Aunt Primrose.”
“Your welcome, Elsa,” Primrose replied in the gentlest of voice. “I do mean that. You are welcome here in Corona, in my home, with us.”
A little while after Queen Primrose left Elsa alone, one of the maids brought a box with writing materials to the room. The letter paper was Queen Primrose’s own, watermarked with the Corona sunburst. The ink was walnut brown. The quill was tipped with gold that nearly glowed.
Dear Anna, she wrote,
I have my own room here in Corona Castle. The King and Queen seem nice. I’m so glad to be off the ship! The rooms were tiny. Everything is so weird, here. It’s really bright. You would love it, wouldn’t you? You always like new things. I hope you can read this writing. I’m trying to make it very small because I don’t want to use up too much paper.
Write back to me before the ship leaves, promise? You can draw me a picture, too, but you have to practice writing. If you send me a letter, it will be almost as good as when we were sharing the same room. I’ll write you a letter every week so it will be just like you are here with me.
Elsa wrote as much as she could on one sheet, in her smallest writing, and sealed it with the smallest drip of sealing wax she could make. She pressed her own ring into the wax.
The King of Corona himself came to call her to dinner. He was her uncle by blood, but she didn’t know him at all. She was a little frightened of him. He had a full beard of dark hair.
His eyes were kind, though. They reminded her a little of her father’s eyes, even though her father had eyes like the water of the fjords when the sun shined through. King Thomas had mild blue eyes that looked at Elsa with something like the same expression. Her father was afraid of the magic getting out. She wondered what King Thomas was afraid of. The king and queen couldn’t know about her ice powers, otherwise they wouldn’t have been treating her so nicely, she imagined.
Elsa lay on her back with her eyes on the ceiling, but she wasn’t seeing the gilded sunburst painted there. The bed she lay on didn’t have a canopy over it to keep out the cold air at night. Elsa was picturing the canopy over her bed at home. She was missing her room and missing her sister, who until recently had shared a room with her. She wondered what Anna was doing and what she had had for dinner.
“Conceal…” Elsa reminded herself, aloud, quietly, “Don’t let them know.” She held her hands over her head. Her aunt and uncle had not made her remove her gloves at dinner. She was glad for that, but she wiggled her gloves off her fingers, now. Soon her hands were free of the stiff gloves. She held her arms over her head. Her hands looked really pale, she thought, in the moonlight that illuminated the room.
She still had to change into her nightgown, so she climbed down from the bed. She rubbed her bare feet into the coarse wool rug as she crossed. It was itchy and hard, not like the fluffy rug in her room back home. The sheep in Corona probably didn’t weren’t as fine as the sheep in her country. She guessed that they wouldn’t need the same thick, downy coats as the animals that lived in the colder north.
Servants had put away the possessions Elsa brought with her from Arendelle while Elsa had dinner with her aunt and uncle. She felt a little happy, not to have to live out of a trunk, the way it had to be during the sea voyage. All of her clothes were now hanging in the wardrobe or stored in the dresser of polished hardwood.
She picked a soft nightgown and pulled it on in exchange for her dress. The curtains on the window were open, but her window looked out on the placid bay. Elsa moved closer to the window and looked out at the sky. The moon was almost round and still cast bright light on the water. The position of the stars was a little different from home, but the moon shining in the night sky was the same moon that Anna would see if she looked out her window.
Elsa touched the glass of the window. It wasn’t cold until her finger touched it. Then a curl of frost formed on the glass. She pulled her touch away quickly.
Her father had said that it would be good for her to learn from Corona. She would be queen of Arendelle someday; the experience would help her to see Arendelle’s place in the world. But Elsa knew that she had been sent away to protect her sister. She was even a little bit glad about that. Far away in another kingdom, there was no way she could make a mistake and hurt Anna again. Elsa had been so scared that morning when her magic could have killed Anna. She would go as far away as she had to, whatever it took to keep her out of harm’s way.
“Goodnight, Anna,” Elsa whispered to the moon. Her breath made more small whorls of frost on the window pane.
She ran to the bed and burrowed under the covers. It was nice to have the curtains open and let the light in.