Chapter 1: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Dec. 25th)❄༻
"My Dearest Cousin" is a look into the letters that were briefly discussed in Indentured, which is a prompt fic about two strangers meeting on the same week of their wedding. Such a composition was quite difficult to pull off because I didn't have the heart to place the setting directly after Frozen, so I had to get creative with the excuses for the prompt's barriers. It's not necessary for you to follow Indentured before you read this one.
To our WIDOWED and ESTEEMED King of Corona,
His HUMBLE AFFINE, with LOVE and KINDNESS,
Wisheth thou HAPPINESS and HEALTH
In REIGNSHIP, ALLIANCE, and SPIRITS
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Her Parliament prays for
Your Majesty and Corona,
to have a safe and prosperous year
in these Unforeseen times
of Famine, Death, and Disease
MAY THE SUN BE WITH YOU
༺ ❅ ༻
My Beloved Cousin,
I am writing to you on this morning, not only to tell you how sorry I am for being unable to take you into my arms tonight, but to remind you that you are not, never were, and never will be alone. My only hope is that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for not taking the time to open mine until today. I once tried very hard to get to know yours on a deeper level than what you allowed, but over the years, I felt forced to avoid doing anything that might stir an argument or make you feel more uncomfortable than you already felt. I understand how hard it is to be an open door in a room full of people, as well as how much easier it looks to lock yourself in and shut the world out; each and every one of us has our own way of functioning when we're in too much pain to function at all anymore, and I would be lying if I told you that I'm still functioning right now.
I was reading The Tales of Flynnigan Rider to my children in the orphanage of Hordaland on the afternoon that your envoy arrived. He entreated me to hold audience with him in the tea room, and so I did. Once inside, he put an envelope in my hands and asked me to open it after he had finished saying what he had to say. Those first ten seconds were my very first time ever hearing about Rapunzel being pregnant. My unexplainable joy for the arrival of my new family member died when I did after he reached the end of his message.
"Queen Rapunzel passed away after the delivery, and the precious little angel she left behind was said to have been due for death at noon."
I've been vomiting ever since.
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I have been trying to find the strength to write to you for nineteen hours. All I've managed to do is tear up letters that don't mean anything, because in the end, I wasn't by her side through any of it. I wasn't there to stay with you through the night. I wasn't there to hold her hand before she closed her eyes. I wasn't there to cradle your precious little girl in my arms before she took her last breath
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. . . . . ...I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, Eugene. There isn't one word I can write that would make up for all of the months I wasted doing what Frederic felt was best even while I knew it wasn't. The most terrible crime is that you're my relative, but I don't know who you are on the inside. Rapunzel is my cousin, but she stopped wanting to be for good reason. Her baby is my first cousin, but now I'll never be able to tell her that I love her . .. .... . . . .. .... . . . .. ...
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Please forgive me if you can . . .
. . . . ... . . . . . .. .... . . . .. .... . . . .. ...I would've given anything to have done something . .. .... . . . .. .... . . . .. ... . . ..... . . . . .. . . .... . .
..... .If I could go back in time and stop it from happening, I would
. . ..... . . . . .. . . .... . . . . . .. . . .... . ..... . . .. . ... . . . .. . . . .. . . .... . ..... . . .. . ... . . . .. . . . . ... . . . .I even begged Grandpabbie . ... .
The gentlemen in my council have advised me to tell you that praying in the chapel will help. They have advised me to write paragraphs about how the sun will still shine through the rain no matter how hard it falls, but I don't have the heart to minimize the actual process it takes to get up in the morning just to open the drapes. Life after you lose anyone you've ever loved is a lot more like an indoor blizzard, except you're the one who feels frozen in time. You want to sink into the floor.
The question we're all left to choke on is, "Does it get any better?" And the answer I've found is, "Yes and no." Not a single thing in this world will numb what you're feeling right now. There isn't a spell that can bring back what once was yours. There isn't a warm hug or special lecture that can turn back the hands of time; the pain becomes a part of you and who you are.
Some days will be better than others. Others will hit you harder than most. On those days, it'll hurt to speak, to breathe, to love. It'll hurt to exist. Every day will revolve around you just trying to make it through the hours.
Relying on what little information I have about your past, I understand that you lost your parents before finding two outstanding ones in Rapunzel's. I'm very familiar with that loss and how it shapes your way of thinking. I'm also very familiar with the fear of letting in and letting go because of it. I only started healing when I decided to let others in after finally realizing what it meant to let go. By letting go, I'm talking about the fear of reconnecting with life that keeps us locked inside of the tiny rooms we call our minds.
Finding healing doesn't mean the wounds will disappear; finding healing means that the wounds no longer control the way you live your life. Once you conquer your fear of living and feeling, you'll start to see that the suffering you're experiencing does have a counterbalance. You'll start to see that the people whom you called your life are still living through you. You'll start to understand that storms don't last forever. Getting out of bed in the morning is the first step to grasping all those things that living has to offer, but it'll take blood and sweat to learn how to walk again.
Ruling alone will be just as hard; it'll be even harder to know what to do when you have no choice but to make up the choreography on your own. Those who supported you because they supported Rapunzel and Frederic may not support you anymore. Foreigners who saw you as an outcast because of your background will become more outspoken. Nothing from that first day you are hailed as the last sovereign standing will ever be so terrifying. All the things you're not, or aren't supposed to be in the eyes of society, will be on display for everyone else to pick apart.
What I've learned is that we can't control how other people treat us, but we can control how we respond. We can choose to either march onward, crumble to the ground, or show our kingdoms who we really are. We can choose to measure our self-worth by how much we're worth to our loved ones instead of our faultfinders, as well as how much we're worth to ourselves. More importantly, we can choose to ask for help.
You always seemed so indifferent to the idea of spending time with me, but I always paid attention to the mosaic Rapunzel made of you. The part of me who understands the part of you who has battled with years of low self-worth wants to thank you for how much you've sacrificed for Rapunzel and her parents in spite of that. From the very bottom of my being, thank you for all that you've done in the name of true love. Thank you for being so unbelievably wonderful to my cousin, aunt, and uncle. If it weren't for you, there wouldn't have been any sunlight in their lives; you made them whole again.
I don't know if anything I've written so far reaches your heart. As much as it hurts me to accept it, we are still strangers to one another in a way that I've always sought to change. Even though I said that I understand the desire to shut the world out, please don't isolate yourself from me if you think that you're going through this by yourself, because you're not. You're going through this with me. You're going through this with Anna. Family is everything, and you still have one overseas who wants you to know that they love you very much; all Anna and I can do now is be here for you.
If you'll allow me to, I can take care of the costs for funeral arrangements so that you can take care of yourself. If the kingdom's food staples need my attention due to Late Blight, then don't hesitate to tell me before I dock in Corona. From this day forward, Corona will be both my responsibility and my life, for I have as much of an obligation to serve, protect, and nurture Rapunzel's homeland as I do you.
XXV of December, 1846
Keeping you in my heart,
Chapter 2: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Dec. 29th)❄༻
My Dearest Cousin,
My last letter wasn't as eloquent as it should've been, and I hope the actual content didn't intimidate you, for lack of a better word. I haven't received a reply from you yet, but I wanted to let you know ahead of time that Anna and I will be arriving in Corona one day before the state funeral. We may, of course, arrive earlier if the sea is kind to us, and I hope it will be, for my sojourn in Corona will be my first time speaking to you alone. We'll have enough daylight to spend our first hour looking over your speech for the memorial service, but I would be more than honored if you reserved the following night for an intimate walk along the seashore.
I initially planned on organizing the service myself, but your committee objected against it. The public supported their open letter by stating their own cultural reasons, many of which I understood, such as wanting to keep the country's funeral traditions in the hands of its native director. To my knowledge, you've played no part in the backlash. I don't even know if you've been in the public eye after Christmas, but I wouldn't want you to think that I was trying to "horn my way" into your throne room because of your High Councillor's misinterpretations. I hope it's clear that I'm only trying to help.
On a happier note, I can't tell you how happy I am to hear about your daughter. "Happy" doesn't even graze the surface. Anna and I were in tears, and Arendelle's celebration of our new family member's life is going on as I write. The announcement had a late start in the North, so her name hasn't been published or forwarded to our media. What the letter did add was that no one has been allowed to see her except her wet nurse.
If there is any truth in the print, then what are the reasons? Will Anna and I also be prohibited from seeing our precious cousin?
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Chapter 3: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Jan. 10th)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
May Heaven keep you from bane, and grant me the courage I will one day need to tell you more than I'm able to write tonight. I have been holding your hand since you last fell asleep after watching you battle fevers of 105°F for nights on end. You opened your eyes, once, and smiled at me like I was the sun, but you thought I was someone I wasn't ― someone whom you genuinely wanted to see. Someone we both yearn to, if only for a fleeting moment in a vision or dream. I wanted so much to let you live in that dream for a little longer that I stroked your face as you whispered her name. You squeezed my fingers with such trust and relief that I wish I could've made it real for you.
Against my own volition, I am by several encumbrances forced to leave the apartments of your palace at first light, but I could not do so without fulfilling two very important promises. One of those promises is to watch over you tonight until the time comes for our separation. The other is making you aware of what has happened to my sister and I while we have been quartered in your chambers. Much of what I am about to impart might upset you, which is not my intention. I can not guarantee that you will read all of it, but I am imploring you to have mercy on us after you've read the ninth passage.
Like most central countries, the northern fringe of Corona has dry summers and powdery winters, so the morning was white with snow when we docked in your seaport. Our docking was nevertheless met by hundreds of mourners who received our largess with the utmost warmth. The last ten hours at sea had been very hard on us, so we were taken to the palace for ginger root and peppermint tea. The servants who accommodated us there were very kind to a point, and countless envoys who'd come from afar ― these including various sons from the Southern Isles ― showed us commiseration. Upon entering your apartments, I was told to only address Lord Constantine and the gentlemen of the King's Council.
Inasmuch as confusion procured me to do, I demanded to speak with Your Majesty as my right, which I would not have done if I had been updated on your condition sooner. Before I carry on, allow me to reassure you that I am not holding you accountable for your silence. I did, however, pin the blame on your secretary, who failed to write to me about your withdrawal from society, your refusal to eat, and the indisposition that has now left you bedridden for days. Had I known that these things were happening, I would've made arrangements for a longer stay, and Anna would've remained here to help you recover during the months to come.
Since the current time frame can not be adjusted, it will take many months for the Storting to support federal funding for any decampment after what King Jeonju of Chosŏn has roped me into. The second matter I must address is the conflict surrounding your precious daughter. The sentries who guarded her nursery let it be known that Anna and I were banned from seeing our own blood as if we were mercenaries. Because I didn't have enough patience to heed their commands, I horned your men the way I wanted to horn you. Their reaction precipitated an argument. Mine precipitated a cataclysm that I can't apologize enough for, but no apology has been given back.
In consequence of the conversation I had with Dr. Wallin and Lord Constantine, I learned that Isolde was being quarantined for an ambiguous ailment your physician "could not yet cure," and thus "an order for isolation from both the unwell and the hale" had been emplaced by the Crown. This information, along with its concealment, only made things worse; I found myself unable to balance my good sense with my emotions. Anna's health had barely bounced back from our voyage, and I'm coming down with something of a sore throat, yet my one and only first cousin, the bundle of joy whom I thought I would never see for as long as I would live, is right down the hall from me, and I can't touch her. I don't think you understand how hard that is, so I'm going to make it clear to you. In pursuance of amity and reason, I did end up surrendering to your council's demands, but I promised that, in a few months' time, Anna would stay in Corona until Princess Isolde was well enough to share the same air.
Lord Constantine resisted on the grounds that, "it would be unconstitutional to disobey the king's wish in such climates." I was at a loss for words until that wish was handed to me on a piece of vellum with your handwriting on it. "He wanted to be alone after the funeral for the next few months," he added. "The date proves that this was written quite a ways before you arrived." My heart dropped; Anna's broke.
You deserve to be given the time to gather enough courage to keep breathing. You deserve to be given a moment to cope however you can cope, but I am deeply wounded by the lengths you have gone to alienate yourself from us. The greatest devastation, on top of Rapunzel's death and Isolde's quarantine, is that Your Majesty can not afford to hug us before we leave. Your self-neglect has chained you to a bed in a room that is too big for you. The cruelest irony I can find in this antinome is the fact that I am now feeling what my very own sister felt when I ignored her calls on the other side of my bedroom door.
I am not ignorant, my beloved cousin, of the suffering you have endured before and after Rapunzel's transition was consummated. My having ignored Anna's voice because the loudest weep I could hear was the one inside my very own head is the experience that connects me to you. Pushing you will only push you away from me; I know that. If you are too fragile to interact with anyone, then we will be here to nurse you back to health once you're ready to open that door. My heart longs for nothing more than your haleness if it can not have your empathy.
Just know that you can't wallow alone in your room like this for weeks at a time. Corona, my sister, and I need you and Isolde as much as you need us. We all need you. You're important to us. You matter, and what we need right now is each other.
If you resent me because of what I have allowed to happen over the years, then I can't blame you. If you mistrust me because I haven't shown myself in Corona nearly as much as I should have, then I don't hold that against you. If you fear or mistrust me because I am what Corona's culture calls an "Ice Witch" instead of a "drop of sunlight from heaven," then please do not withhold Princess Isolde from my sister. I'm begging you, Eugene. Please.
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Your citizens reacted very badly to the news. Because the frightened were saying that you might die from "scarlet fever," the memorial service for Rapunzel snowballed into mayhem. A young captain, who I assume was substituting Captain Hitler after the latter's accident weeks prior, managed to calm them far better than I could. We then tried to encourage everyone to lay flowers and wreaths at the feet of the palace while Corona's parliament swore allegiance to you. Children held hands and sang, "You Are Shelter From the Storm" at noontide.
Watching those orphans perform brought tears and smiles to my face. With every voice that joined the melody, including mine, Rapunzel's spirit seemed to rise up from the catafalque and walk down into the crowd to hug us all. I only wish that there was some type of invention or gizmo that bottled up all the good memories you want to hold onto like perfume. If I had a gadget like that, I would've been able to take it back to your room and share it with you. I can never return to that moment again, that much is certain, but her warmth still lingers on me like peppermint.
My journey to Corona's municipalities revealed more than I was willing to digest. Although famine hasn't reached the port island, I could see the aftermath of harvest blight in the rural areas over the bridge. I told Lord Constantine that I wanted to discuss with him in great length what should be done about Corona's staples, but time hasn't been on our side. In the beginning of our march, Rapunzel's coffin was wheeled through the town on a horse-drawn carriage with Anna and I by hers.
The public's reluctance towards my presence will be written in the tabloids this week, so please pardon me for not going into detail myself. Having to watch our cousin's open casket be placed on a catafalque in the middle of Corona's chapel was upsetting enough. After two days of the Lying in State ceremony, Rapunzel's coffin was carried into Hohendorf past a tavern called, "The Snuggly Duckling." Your forest's beautiful scenery reminded us of the Aust-Agder backwoods in Arendelle, but a growing distress in Hohendorf, which I know will not be reported, stopped us from traveling further.
We accompanied her back to the castle, where we were joined by staff, parliament members, pallbearers, foreign ambassadors, Coronian guardsmen, and Maximus for the Common Prayer. At the burial site, I was made to give the speech you were meant to recite. A good number of my listeners felt scandalized and "cheapened" by it because I didn't know Rapunzel long enough to speak on the behalf of citizens and friends who have known her than I since her return. In spite of that, I did my best.
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Chapter 4: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Feb. 5th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
I'm the one who should be getting on my knees to tell you how sorry I am. I want to start this letter off by apologizing to Your Majesty and Her Highness for all of the chaos that's been systematically choreographed under my nose. I didn't mean to leave either one of you ladies in limbo, and I most certainly didn't mean to leave you in a hotbed of controversy. I still haven't forgiven myself for allowing the Southern Isles to get the better of me. Now that I'm finally conscious, I have a lot of mending to do, so here's to hoping that you're still open to hearing me out one last time:
First on this morbid list to apologize for is your initial letter. I was never able to read what you sent to me in December. Supposedly it was delivered to my study, but "supposedly" is just that. That's one disadvantage to having other people in charge of shipping and handling when you're bedridden. Your second letter is the one I did get, but the closing was torn off after, "Will Anna and I also be prohibited from seeing our precious cousin?"
The carrier of that letter said that he was attacked by highwaymen on his way to the castle, but I have a feeling that there's a lot more to the story than what I'm being told. You should know that this third one barely survived the jaws of Emeline's mastiff, rendering the bottom parts of both pages illegible. My karma is about as fond of our communication as it is of my unimaginable accession to King Frederic's throne. I think the newspapers have filled me in on what Adalwin ate, and in respect to you, I won't regurgitate them.
While I realize that some people weren't happy about you stepping up to the dais on that cold winter evening, I would encourage you to never look for ways to make excuses for that audience. Plenty of people were grateful. Some refuse to change their opinions on other people even after those very same people have proven who they really are. I know this story from back to front better than any reader, and I've even freestyled a theme song for myself to cope with it. The lyrics go a little something like, "Don't care about what they're going to say."
This doesn't mean that what you went through should be treated like water under the bridge. That isn't what I'm saying, and deep down, I'm sure that's not what you believe, either. I ended up showing my face in the square to bleed my own heart out without anyone telling me what to say or how to say it, and in that speech, I spoke of Rapunzel's guaranteed disappointment in the actions of her people. For the most part, they began to reflect on how they treated you. Words may not be able to change hearts in every situation, but I reached a fair amount.
With that being said, you're not wrong about the conflict between magic and breadth of mind in Corona. Tolerance of foreign faiths has recently been made into a law here, but in the kingdom's traditional religion, rebirth comes from the sun. Ice, on the other hand, is a beautiful yet deceptive nemesis that traps life in eternal stillness. For some, such as the Bishop of Corona, you thawing Arendelle was proof that you could obliterate and revive. Others aren't convinced that your ice magic is trustworthy. Several are stuck in the middle.
Then we have those who believe any magic that doesn't fall from the sun is evil because the "Testaments of Eld" said so. This country has had a long history of staking these "conjurers" and Gothel-type sun-suckers throughout the decades in reaction to those testaments. I personally never jumped on the bandwagon because it's a little more than irrational to turn people into angels or demons based on the outside instead of what's on the inside. Rapunzel and I outlawed witch hunts and lynchings for that very reason. Of course, this doesn't imply that I don't know that rural Hohendorf is still a breeding ground for irrational fears of the unknown, but I do know that people there would never think of hurting you, if that's what you believed.
No matter what happened or didn't happen, it is my duty as King to apologize on Corona's behalf for the antagonism that you were wrongly forced to deal with. You didn't deserve that. No one deserves that, and it will never happen again. You have my word.
Out of everyone I've spoken to, it's you whom I wholeheartedly agree with when it comes down to my wife's ceremony. Lying in State was not what I wanted for her, but spreading ashes over the ocean isn't a Coronian tradition that's up for implementing. I'm going to change that, too.
Secondly, King Nutju of Chosŏn: I heard that you quelled his anger by reasoning with him in his castle. He's a madman who's got the attention span of a four year old, but I was relieved to hear that Your Majesty had managed to come out unscathed after giving him what he wanted.
Thirdly, my representative: Corona's parliament has a practice in place called, "Care of King During Illness." This statute basically allows the King's Council to act "in my best interests" without my consent. The parliament therefore chose to appoint my First Lord (in your country, the "Prime Minister") to ward the kingdom as the "Guardian of the Crown," so while I fell into the role of "suffering from a life-threatening illness," he fell into the role of calling the shots. In accordance, I was suspended from my royal functions two days before you docked.
You're probably asking yourself how in the world I managed to fit the description above when I wasn't on my death bed in the first place. By the time I could actually cough out a sentence, I was asking every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the room that very same question. Cannonballs of "misinformation" — or a spectacularly orchestrated lie, and props to the maestro for flawlessly conducting it — were fired back and forth between the foreign physician and my council about the "probability" of me not only being mortician ready in a month's time, but "too mentally unwell" to take the throne even if I did survive the outcome of my, "chronic depression, suicidal tendencies, and self-starvation."
Whatever disbelief you have, feel free to shout it to the top of your lungs right this very minute. Keep in mind that none of this was formally pedaled out to the masses because no one wanted to "break more hearts" on what should have been the day of celebration for my wife's life. But I'm here to tell you, loud and clear, that what you heard is false. It's a lie that I wasn't eating because of chronic depression. It's a lie that I "withdrew from society," and as long as I have something to say about it, it'll never be true that I would ever even touch the idea of committing suicide.
Rapunzel and I did not dance around what could've happened as a result of how sick this pregnancy was making her. Attempting to have another baby for the last time wasn't something I wanted to do at all, but my wife had a different dream, and I had to honor that dream. She openly acknowledged our midwife's warnings and talked with me about what I should do if anything ever happened. Or, at least, we tried to talk about what I should do if anything ever happened, and we tried to talk about it as rationally as we could. But I swore to Rapunzel, that if this day actually came, then I would be strong for both our little us and her heart.
Rapunzel's heart in this context is Corona, along with the canvas of dreams that she had in store for it. Going back on that promise wouldn't just make me out to be a liar and a hypocrite. It would make everything we promised each other to go to rack and ruin. I don't have any choice but to be a pillar for Corona — for my wife, for her parents, for my beautiful baby girl — and I can't be that pillar by shutting down and committing suicide. Neither of those evacuation options are options.
Everyone in Corona has been destroyed by this; I'm not the only one who's had the biggest piece of them die, but I'm the only one who has to be the buttress that holds everyone else together. Me, not anyone else, just me, and only me. Doing the opposite of that isn't what Rapunzel and my parents would've wanted. According to a dream I had, they haven't left my side by any means, so I know what they expect, and they expect me to be the man whom Frederic groomed me to be. I would never betray them because I'm in pain; that, Your Majesty, would be selfish.
Now what wasn't a lie was my fever, but like everything else that's been blown out of proportion, it was because my body was fighting poison. Heavy, consistent doses being served to me on a platter each and every day like corn on a cob. The mastermind behind the scenes did a terrific job. He did the absolute best in the business, because he managed to avoid the whole, "Who poisoned the king?" fiasco. He set it up to look like the king was killing himself.
I found out yesterday that one of the envoys you spoke of happened to be the so-called poisoner in question. The envoy I'm referring to is King Kasimir's muscle, a sovereign who also happens to be the ninth brother in that flea-infested Southern Isles litter. Apparently he and the foreign physician had been in cahoots with one another, which is almost too obvious of a decoy, logically speaking. King Kasimir and his brothers denied any knowledge, made an inhumane spectacle of the man's execution, and wrote an open apology today. Until I can dig up more dirt, I have no choice but to accept it, but I'm going to keep my eyes open; there's always some kind of kraken crawling out of that kingdom's swamp.
I regret to tell you that I don't remember opening my eyes to find my wife's in yours. I neither recall the feeling of you holding my hand nor mine holding yours, but I can recall that I didn't order anyone to keep you and Anna away from me or Isolde. I had no idea any of this was going on. That so-called poisoner I mentioned had studied my handwriting astoundingly well. Banning you was an issue that Constantine and our High Councillor took into their own hands, and based on what you've written, they took it way too far.
Did Isolde have complications that we didn't want anyone exploiting while the whole world's eyes were on Corona's half-empty throne room? Yes, in fact, she did. Because my little girl was born prematurely, she's been under an intensive care system for low immune tolerance. During her first five days of life, she wouldn't even open her eyes. After the sixth, she caught an infection from her wet nurse's breast milk. There are still mornings where she'll suddenly stop breathing for ten seconds, so we've been trying to look for more adequate ways to deal with this ever since.
Due to all of the above, there were plenty of concerns that I had in the beginning. Unless it was me, I did only want her nurses to be around her, but after I was "incapacitated," some of my concerns were blown out of proportion by my council, because not once did I ever say, "Make sure you treat Princess Anna and Queen Elsa like assassins when they get here." Never in a million years would I sic an order like that on you and Princess Anna. Everyone who was involved in dressing it up to look like I would got their fair share of consequences, I can tell you that much. As of right now, I'm trying to figure out what the next step will be for my daughter.
But I can say to you right now that my little Izzy is a fighter. A real little warrioress, just like her invincible mother. Once everything is under better control, I'll have no problem with Her Highness returning to Corona to see Isolde's smile; it's more dazzling than watching comets fall from the sky, for she's got enough horsepower in that tiny body to grin wider than Pascal when you tickle her cheek. She's Rapunzel reborn.
And in case you were wondering, I don't feel bitter about you being MIA over the years. I truly appreciate you for coming to my side in the hardest year of my life. I'm just sorry that I wasn't able to stand by yours, Princess Anna's, Corona's, or my own wife's. She never left mine's in spite of that, and I'm eternally blessed to still have the biggest piece of her in my very arms. While I may have never had a plethora of information about Her Majesty outside of newspapers, Rapunzel's word, Princess Anna's stories, and those thirteen hours spent in Arendelle, I really do appreciate this year's support.
Again, thank you. Thank you for doing what you could for Rapunzel on this side of the equator. Thank you tremendously.
V of February, 1847
P.S. I'm glad that you mentioned our crop crisis. I've drawn up a framework for a famine relief program for any future emergencies, but I've been meaning to pick your brain for some stable ideas. I recall hearing about Arendelle gracefully dealing with its own hit a while back. Would Your Majesty be willing to join forces?
Chapter 5: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Feb. 8th)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
Please don't think for one second that you have anything to be sorry about. Your subjects are the culprits who owe Arendelle an apology if they can't afford to apologize to me or my sister for keeping all this a secret from us. I was never informed by Lord Constantine about any "Care of King During Illness" Act or death bed arrangement. I was told to my face that you neither could nor would see anyone because of a nervous breakdown. I'm well acquainted with dysthymia and its side effects, so I knew that the best thing to do was to respect your space and go about future contact with sensitivity. Since none of that was ever even necessary, this letter has given me yet another reason to hold your ministers in contempt.
I might as well reconsider, "horning my way into Corona" if some stray animal is what they want to treat me like. Never have I ever disrespected your elders in the way that they have chosen to disrespect me, but now I see how much of a waste my discretion was. The very thought of there being any forecast for your death without anyone in Corona communicating that much with me speaks volumes about where we stand. I never should've left you alone.
In one light, I have the right to be beyond furious and no one can convince me otherwise. In another, I'm starting to wonder if I do deserve the blatant disregard that Corona has thrown my way for having allowed interrelations to become this dysfunctional, and you this vulnerable. Your paragraph about food poisoning has taken me even longer to stomach. By way of King Kasimir's letter, I was made aware of the murder attempt right before yours reached Arendelle. I wanted to hurt the man who hurt you and, quite possibly, almost my first cousin; your version of this unforgivable hate crime has been just as heartbreaking to countenance as the reality of your helplessness both without and within my presence.
I have a very intimate relationship with King Kasimir of Norrlind, whom, alongside Sigfus Söderman, was attached to a scandalous publication about homosexuality yesternoon. The majority of what you described here is underlined in that article, but the narrative is entirely different. It tells the story of his envoy being a scorned lover who'd set out to destroy Norrlind by provoking Corona. If the story has any shred of truth in it, then I'd much rather hope that it does. I don't want to view my companion in the same light as Prince Hans, or start living in fear for his wonderful wife, Queen Malmö.
King Kasimir has since reached out to me for forgiveness on that wretched man's behalf and a promise to attend his banquet in Vadstena Castle. He says he wants to enlighten me on something that he feels can't be sealed by a wax stick. As a corollary, I'll be conducting an investigation of my own for the health of my conscience and your constitution until that day arrives. If I can not get what I need from King Kasimir, then I will be asking your secretary to send me more information on the foreign physician who lied about your illness, the exact timeline for your malnutrition, his arrival, the entrance of Sigfus, and a copy of the Southern Isles's apology appended to Norrlind's.
I won't say that I'm not upset about what happened to my letters. I put my heart into them. If you ever do find the first one, then please ignore the cloud of splotches staining the pages; I couldn't stop crying, which hasn't changed. I'm less shocked yet even more upset to hear about what happened to my third letter. Yours also had trouble getting back to me in one piece.
After winter ends, I'd like to talk about using a messenger bird to protect our privacy. I have a nominee in mind, but he's much bigger than your average homing pigeon. To let you know likewise, I was recently notified about your carrier being attacked in Corona, but the story I heard alluded to a mobbing in Hohendorf, not a confrontation with highwaymen on the island. The first thing that came to mind was, "Why did the messenger stop in Hohendorf if he usually sails straight to the port island?" We're both in agreement about there being illogical variables in this equation.
Oddly enough, I haven't heard anything else about these anonymous insurrectionists. Let me know if any light sheds on Hohendorf in the upcoming weeks. The last thing you need is a rebellion, so we have to stay on top of it before it gains momentum. Don't trust anyone who doesn't seem to be telling you the whole story about something. That'll give rebels access to a blind spot in your monarchy.
Your midmost disclosure is the only part of this letter that makes my heart stop in a good way. I had to catch my breath for a moment. Here I am, trying to inspire in you the will to go on, yet you blow me away with an unimaginable amount of passion and purpose that I wish I'd had when I was crowned. You truly have the capacity for devotion and valiance that surpasses several princes on our continent's isles. I want you to hold onto that spirit and never let go of it.
Everything you wrote is everything I'd told myself on the morning of my coronation, but unlike that scared twenty-one year old, I'm confident that you won't fall apart if you remember to lean on the support system she never did. What I was essentially saying in my first letter is that you don't have to be "that buttress" alone, and my offer still stands, because I'll be returning to Corona as soon as possible. I need to see you and Isolde once and for all. I've been kept from the truth about your circumstances for so long that I promised Anna I would, "horn my way into Corona's throne room with a tissue box and an ice pack sliding off my forehead." I don't think you have any idea how much you helped me tonight by writing back to me at all.
Anna read your letter out loud to me while I was lying in bed with a head cold, you see. I haven't been myself since my "imprisonment" in Chosŏn. My position with the Storting isn't in any better shape than I am right about now, but what's happening here is the furthest concern from my mind. What you've given me is the greatest gift of all: a letter saying that you're alive, and not just in body, but in spirit. I know I haven't been everything I should've been in the past, but I won't make that same mistake a third time.
I have to admit that when I first opened your letter, I did expect "rack and ruin," so I had already prepared myself for the worst. I'm over the moon with joy and admiration to see that you're only interested in preparing for the best. I think the rest of our family above is just as. I also want you to know that I've been interviewing pediatricians from my bedside about Isolde's premature symptoms. One suggestion that keeps coming up is placental abruption, which causes internal bleeding in the mother and hypoxic damage in the infant. Did your doctor ever tell you if Princess Isolde had sleep apnea, and was she blue after birth?
There are men from Chatho who say that the lungs are not always affected during sleep apnea in spite of the pauses, and there are others in Zaria who spoke to me about resuscitated infants with perinatal asphyxia. A small group of northern specialists have been researching a "controlled hypothermia" method here in Hordaland for children with neonatal encephalopathy as well. I actually became a participant in the last party's vocation. In April of 1846, their goal was to study how performing body-cooling techniques on oxygen-deprived newborns could reduce the risk of brain damage and cardiac arrest in five orphans. To my horror, I was asked to partake in these trial runs as a key asset.
I turned down the offer three times. Until then, the only body-friendly magic I'd ever distributed was for ice cream cakes, chocolate ice cream, frosted cookies, petticoats, and spiffy dresses. Later that year, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place after being presented with a file on newborns who had died from NE, many whose mothers I knew personally, and several who were on their way. My first collaboration with the men turned out to be far better than I ever imagined. Under their guidance, we practiced body cooling treatments between 33.5°C and 34.5°C for seventy-two hours before applying a four hour re-warming. I spent a good amount of my time monitoring the spell for another five orphans in Hordaland.
At the end of the year, I made hypothermic therapy blankets for infants who were eventually discharged with healthy oxygen flows to the brain. Because the cloaks are a hybrid between my magic and standard fabric, Anna says they look like mermaid tails with, "water circulating in the beads." Alas, the body-cooling treatment has only been performed six hours after a child's birth, and I'm not sure what your daughter's condition is, so I'm not giving you a referral to this practice. I would, however, like to get you in touch with the practitioners. Two of them have successfully diagnosed and sustained infants with hypoxiation.
This is also the part where I have to apologize for not asking for your permission first, because they're already sailing for Corona. I hope you aren't too upset about my decision. I just didn't feel like there was enough time to wait for your response. If you do agree to a consultation, then a diagnosis can be determined, a proposition can be pitched, and a daily procedure can be utilized. Both men advised me to supply my blanket as a supplement.
I don't know what good it'll do, but if they can find another use for it, then I'm more than happy to help. Like I said, you don't have to use my charm if the idea makes you feel uncomfortable. When the silver package arrives with this letter, please send it back if my offer oversteps your boundaries. If it doesn't, then know that the cloak inside is soothing to the touch. Dr. Ingul and Dr. Waldus will further educate you on it.
I genuinely appreciate you for not holding my lack of presence in your life against me. Hohendorf and I had interesting encounters during my first stay in Corona, so believe me when I say that I'm very used to their prejudice. The only opinion I care about is yours. All that's left to address now are those famine response methods you asked about. My father devised Arendelle's relief operation before I was born, so I had a policy to turn to, but I did revise most of it. I'll start with the most important question:
Is food unaffordable or unavailable in Corona's impoverished areas?
If the first, then retrenchment is a must. Hopefully your subjects are already considering lowering taxes and other means that they too are living well beyond. Otherwise, noblemen will hoard the food they can purchase, sell it to underclassmen at a monstrous price, and drag the rural backcountry to the ground. This will lead to riots, violence, and unbridled rebellions against the Crown. Taxpayers will always believe that the king alone is responsible for countrywide chicanery.
If the second, then you don't want to be in a position where your people are primarily dependent on imported shipments from other countries. By the time the rations reach the hinterlands, an outrageous amount of Coronians will have died. To prevent that, I would advise you to close Corona's ports now instead of exporting more raw materials. It may seem like trading with foreign partners will "save your bacon" as Kristoff would say, but it will leave the belly of the country dry when you have to fall back on your own resources.
From this point on, I should warn you that these recourses may or may not have the same level of impact on Corona as they did on Arendelle, but they're worth a shot.
VIII of February, 1847
With friendship and support,
P.S. What exactly does "MIA" mean?
Chapter 6: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Feb. 14th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
The équivoque with the ice pack made a stupendous image. Wonderful wordplay. I'm happy to be of service to your immune system. However, let's try not to get too ahead of ourselves here. For Her Serene Majesty's sake, it would be recommendable to focus on decompressing and recharging instead of charging and bulldozing through Constantine's bedroom doors like a Borundian rhino. All in good time; all in good time.
Speaking of rest, I hope you're feeling better than you were the last time you wrote to me. I sent Her Majesty and Her Highness two Valentines presents to bring some much needed smiles to your faces. Quite frankly, I'm still recovering from January's game of crowns episode myself. On top of all of these withdrawal symptoms I'm having, I've been under so much mental pressure that I haven't had time to reply to anyone. This is just me giving advance notice, because over the next couple of months, I'm most likely going to be even worse with the communication. I'll still try to make an effort to write as frequently as I can; your intel is greatly desired.
I may as well mention that I didn't skip over that abstruse line about you not being on good terms with your parliament. I hear that they've been pulling your teeth; the newshounds who report back to the People's Council have had a field day with the chain reaction. I think more than anything, the Storting is upset about the reception that the Crown of Arendelle got from Corona, and honestly, I don't blame them. I just wish they knew that everyone in Corona is not as venomous as everyone else appears to be. One mind doesn't define all.
With respect to the latest events, I would avoid trying to get your PMs to reopen funds for Anna's visit for now. That isn't just because of the civil rift it's making between Arendelle and Corona, but also because I'd truthfully only want Her Majesty and Her Highness lounging in the palace after I have everything under control like I told you. We could be having a bit of an epidemic problem somewhere down the line if the reports I'm perusing are authentic. I won't worry you with the minutia because it's nothing I can't handle. I've got it on lock.
Provided that what you said about Bogohardt's alibi is relatively Arendellian info, I actually haven't heard that version of the story. Witnesses said they didn't see Bogohardt in Hohendorf, but I decided to send a few scouts to check out the villages. Thus far, it's been reported that Hohendorf hasn't seen any excitement of that sort. This could just be a case of two countries getting abridgments from unreliable sources, but the synopsis you gave me is worth keeping tabs on, so I'll keep you updated. (Air mail sounds terrific, by the way; I sent Bogohardt off with troops, and that's a lot like smearing honey on your front porch in grizzly bear territory).
Trust me when I tell you that I'll never forget your coronation or its psychodynamic highlights, which are as clear as daylight in my mind. (I photographically recall ice forming on your scepter before I passed it off on hypnopompic hallucinations, so that little detail went unshared). Rapunzel and I may have left before the second waltz, but your expression in the chapel was a huge topic on our way back home. We seemed like the only newcomers who saw you looking absolutely terrified. Had Rapunzel found you after the first waltz, she would've consoled you, but you were a rather talented escape artist back then.
In hindsight, I can see where you're coming from with the parallelism. I haven't had my coronation, but I can identify with feeling the weight of your title on your shoulders in conjunction with trying to fend off piranhas from all sides. I've been in this fishbowl since I was Prince Eugene, yet I'm still stumbling around like a mermaid out of water as King Eugene. My situation isn't a comparison to yours, of course, but it is an equivalent. Although I'll take your words into consideration for Corona's alimentation, I should warn you that I'm not the kind of person who's used to leaning on people.
Crawling back to the matter of King Kasimir and the Southern Isles, I see Her Majesty doesn't beat around the bush. It appears that Rapunzel and the women in her family tree all fall from Athena's sacred branch. I expected an appalled or sympathetic reaction with a lot of adjectival woes, not, "so just to let you know, I'm already taking action." Moved (and impressed) as I am, I'm afraid I can't let you do that. Please don't take offense to this next comment, but I would much rather prefer you not getting involved. There are too many masked players on the field to reconnoiter, and without me covering you, your back will be open.
This isn't to say that I don't realize how much I can't make you not attend the banquet. That much is (glaringly) obvious, but all I'm asking you to do is reconsider that invitation before the end of February. It sounds very much to me like a trap. I don't want you jeopardizing your trade partnership with Norrlind (especially since your subjects don't even have to travel there by ship), but keeping company with King Kasimir at a secluded banquet in the boondocks, especially when his goal is to pull you aside for private dialogue, is worth a second thought. I'm going to attach the open apology to the back of this so that you can get a glimpse of exactly how inhumane his envoy's execution was.
You would expect "constitutional coldness," but the details of the execution read like they were having a fun family activity. I don't know if they thought my kingdom would look at them differently for excessively torturing Söderman, but it wasn't just King Ragnar of the Southern Isles who handled it like a brute. After you finish reading it, you'll understand why I think Hans's siblings are just as slippery as he is.
At any rate, I wouldn't take that homosexual rumor seriously. Your Majesty and Queen Malmö were in the headlines as lesbian lovers two years ago if my memory serves me correctly. Ridiculous as that was, the public ate it up like pound cake, so one or the other unhappily married spouse is always "homosexual" every year in the tabloids. Maybe King Kasimir is even keeping one popular intermarriage scandal in the papers to keep him out of another by making himself look pitiable and "blasphemous" instead of despicable and murderous. Who knows? Sometimes suspects like to find an even thicker layer of grime under the tile to ricochet the first mud-sling off their backs; it's far-fetched, but it wouldn't miss the mark by much.
Pertaining to your other inquiries, the foreign physician was an accessory from Norrlind who went by the full name of Vilgot Wallin. When he was outed on February 4th by his assistant, he allegedly told Constantine that Söderman threatened him, and this was how the buffoonery unraveled. Based on the testimony, his only role was to blow my "diagnosis" to the moon, but he "played no role" in the actual poisoning. Söderman, on the other hand, had been in and out of Corona from December 12th to January 1st to draft a treaty with our commissioners that ended up getting iced on January 1st. Usually when foreign representatives come here, they're given the castle's private chambers, so it wasn't too unrealistic to picture Söderman smuggling poison into mine.
The poison I'm referring to was a tasteless powder from Norrlind called Arsena. It was found under Söderman's bed on January 18th long after his embarkment. A little strange for an assassin to conveniently forget to take their evidence with them after leaving it in the most findable place ever, which, for whatever reason, wasn't found until January 18th. It's one of several things that makes me feel like this whole thing was staged. Just to fill you in, Arsena is a classic exterminator that causes joint pain, esophageal pain, chronic fevers, and skin lesions via sun exposure after twenty days of ingestion, but any more than thirty days leads to vomiting, gastric distress, and rectal bleeding until the body gives out.
December 25th actually marked the beginning of when I couldn't digest solid foods, and December 31st is when I stopped being able to eat altogether. This obviously had adverse effects, but rejecting bowls might've saved my life. What really bothers me is the fact that I keep hearing King Kasimir say that he also thinks Söderman was salty about his own treaty terms not being accepted by the People's Council. If what he said was remotely reasonable, then why did he poison me twenty days before January 1st? It's just not adding up.
King Kasimir should especially know how an ancient powder from his own country works, yet I don't hear any herbal experts calling him on his bull. After January 30th, my digestive tract made some improvements with the help of a little food therapy and an herbal combatant I can't pronounce for the life of me, so at least there's that. Starting yesterday, I finally weaned off liquid meals. Regaining my weight is the last step left. Eating and walking still isn't the same, but I'll take my blessings as they come.
Concerning Izzy, I'm pleased to tell you that she's doing phenomenally better than she was before. The people you sent? Fantastic. Very weird, but fantastic. Both agreed that she didn't have cerebral hypoxiation or cerebral palsy, and I'll be honest with you, I've never heard of any of those conditions, so I can't confirm things like placental abruptions.
What I can say is that the women in Rapunzel's family have always had problems during labor, and my Izzy was delivered with jaundice on that horrible morning. Dr. Ingul said her lungs weren't mature and needed respiratory stimulants. Dr. Waldus said that her actual "apnea" came from her airways not being clear ever since the infection. They both went on to tell me about the medicinal plants someone named Pabbie gave them. One was supposed to be used as a respiratory stimulant, but they needed to know if a flower stalk in Corona could work as an expectorant.
With a little luck, I knew exactly where to find it:
That's right; Hohendorf.
There's a reason why so many villagers in the back of Hohendorf are the way they are. Rapunzel's parents built a monolith with a plaque after the Magic Golden Flower was uprooted from Hohendorf for Queen Arianna. I've never been to the location myself, but port citizens and holistic doctors who travel there always talk about herbal flower stalks growing around the plaque even during winter. They're not Magic Golden Flowers, mind you, but I like to think that maybe the soil is still rich from that first drop of sunlight — rich enough to make plant life flourish among the conditions. But this is just my theory, and it could be wrong.
I say that because after Rapunzel's flower left her and inhabited me, all of its life force was used to bring me back from the dead. Something similar happened with Queen Arianna. The flower's properties became a part of her bloodstream, but it "ejected" itself into Rapunzel's after she was born, who then became that new host. But I'm getting off topic, aren't I? The flower I'm supposed to be telling you about is called the Ice Leaf.
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Chapter 7: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Feb. 20th)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
I don't have much time, so I'm writing this emergency letter quickly:
Your messenger's ship was devastated by a thunderstorm near the Southern Isles. Bogohardt and the surviving passengers were found in a wrecked longboat by Arendelle's whalers this afternoon. Immediately after evaluation, Bogohardt told my physician that the disaster happened three days before they were rescued by the captain. What's puzzling and troubling to me is that not a single coast guard from the Southern Isles sighted them despite being in closer range. My whalers even reported one of their frigates returning to the Norðri Sea the day before.
I took it upon myself to write a letter to King Ragnar about the open negligence of your men. That response will determine our future interaction. If he comes across to me as disingenuous, then everything you felt about his open apology will bring more credibility to the table. After that, a cross-examination will be in order.
In the outcome of the prior event, Bogohardt swallowed too much saltwater and fell gravely ill. He talks in his sleep of a redheaded mermaid making the ship "turn turtle." Practical as I try to be, I obviously don't find it hard to believe that other wonderful creatures are out there, but I strongly believe he's been suffering from flu-like symptoms for over twenty-eight hours. In the meantime, Arendelle will take care of him and your crew until they're well enough to sail home.
I'm sorry to say that your Valentine presents never made it, but I thank you for your kindness; you must have put a lot of thought into it. If it's of any consolation, the first page of your letter was half-salvaged in the shipwreck; it's the other pages that were destroyed by the accident. I could only make out everything as far as the Ice Leaf. It almost felt deliberately censored. I hope you wouldn't be opposed to reiterating that information when you regain your strength and time; I'm very anxious to read what was omitted from it.
Rapunzel once gave me a very abridged tale of the Magic Golden Flower on my first night in Corona. You were overseas as Corona's ambassador. Among the brief conversations Rapunzel and I shared in her rowboat, she spoke about the resurrection and loss (or transference?) of her powers, but she said that she didn't exactly know what happened. If you became her flower's new host, then did you ever think about having residual magic?
Relating to your and Isolde's recovery, I can't explain how overjoyed hearing that makes each and every one of us here in the fjords of Arendelle. I couldn't explain it when Isolde survived the night, and I'm still trying to take it all in now. It's like the feeling you get when you're six hundred metres high above sea level in the mountains of Ulriken or Løvstakken. (That's embarrassingly unrelatable, isn't it?). You have to be proud of and inspired by your daughter's strength. I knew Dr. Ingul and Dr. Waldus would have what was needed to make her even stronger.
As Dr. Ingul hopefully explained, my cloak makes a nice bedtime blanket for preterm babies without encephalopathy. The "medicinal plant distributor" they're talking about is the leader of the rock trolls here in Arendelle; we call him, "Grandpabbie." Rock trolls are mythical beings in our country's folktales, but foreigners don't usually come into contact with them. I never know Dr. Ingul and Dr. Waldus saw them, let alone believed in them. That might cover why they're so interested in supernatural remedies.
I'll be even happier to finish the recount of Isolde's improvement if you would be willing to rehash the missing details for me one last time. There were so many pages lost, and so much I can't respond to, but if you can't find the time or energy in the future, then that's fine as well. I don't want to be a burden. I know you don't want to "worry me" with anything, either — but it's too late for that. I'm always going to be worried; it's my job to worry.
I'd worry less if the sea between us wasn't so wide, and even less than that if the "political" opinions about who we are or "what our approach should be" didn't play such a big role in our limitations. Sometimes I envy the people for just being able to be people.
. .. .
I'm sorry. That was inappropriate. Please disregard that. I always write to you too late at night or too early in the morning to be in the right frame of mind. With the schedule I have, it's no wonder my head is where it is.
As far as your own thoughts go, I strongly encourage you not to hide this epidemic "problem" from me. Tell me everything you can in the next reply before it gets worse. The sodality between our kingdoms is vital, and I understand not wanting Anna to go abroad right now, but we can do our part overseas as long as our line of communication finds a new carrier in April. The open "apology" letter you tried to send me didn't make it through the disaster. Sadly, I can't make my own judgement on King Kasimir's role without it.
I will say as a monarch who feels responsible for every citizen in her kingdom that I don't support torturing, beheading, or hanging anyone before reformation programs, labor penalties, and banishment are taken into account, so I'm not turning a blind eye to the way he and his brothers have gone about their justice. If inhumane torture is morally wrong, then we as society's leaders can not turn around and torture humans in the name of morality. Dehumanization does not end dehumanization; it reinforces it. These are the reasons why I never pushed for the execution of Prince Hans or the Duke of Weselton in their own countries. But beyond a doubt, I still feel the need to find concrete evidence of the entire family's involvement; that is when I will hold them all accountable.
Presently, I haven't yet known any of the brothers to hold the ambitions of their youngest, so people have the right to be seen as individuals just as you or I. As you've said before, "one mind doesn't define all." I'm not saying that I have not, do not, and will not proceed with caution. You have a lot of compelling points and a good eye for nonsense to boot; they are of utmost importance to me and I am internalizing them for review. I would just like to see things for myself.
In keeping with your argument and my knowledge of things never being black or white, I feel like there are more pawns and decoys than players on the field, and I'd rather back my feelings up with solid proof. King Kasimir may very well be lying, and he may very well be moralless, but for right now, we don't have enough evidence to label him as the puppet-master behind the curtain of this proscenium. I do understand your concern for my safety, but I'll be fine. I'm always prepared, and more importantly, never alone.
I'll write to you again in March. Please take good care of yourself and Isolde until then.
XX of February, 1847
P.S. For the record, I knew all along that you saw the ice on my scepter. You were the person I was staring at in the chapel. Rapunzel didn't find me, but you did. Accidentally, I assume, yet I was afraid that you were going to say something. Looking back, I wish you had finished speaking to me instead of staring at me. I thought that you thought I was horrifying.
Chapter 8: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Mar. 2nd)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
I hope that your men got home safely. Because I know that you're being kept busy by your council, I tried to make this recountal as concise as necessary:
My evening with King Kasimir in Vadstena Castle on the 29th was eye-opening, to say the least. The banquet turned out to be a premiere opening for its completed renovation. Two years ago, numerous monarchs including myself contributed to the rehab project for Queen Malmö after the degeneration of the fortress. I singlehandedly donated interior designs to her architects and bricklayers, so my appearance was that much more mandatory for the honorary speech King Kasimir had made towards the end of the night. My old friend wasn't present, but all ten of her husband's brothers attended in order of appearance: Prince Jeronimus, Prince Blasius, Prince Lars, Prince Linus, King Ragnar, Prince Palmar, Prince Rudi, Prince Runo, Prince Emil, and Prince Aloysius. I've met the first three several times, but never have I seen all eleven living brothers in one hall.
Anna and I were introduced by King Kasimir to Prince Linus and Prince Blasius at the castle's gate. The clumsy kiss they planted on our wrists were uncomfortable to grin through, but the whole introduction went as well as it could've for a public establishment. Both men appeared to be soft, ― shy, but soft ― and I didn't feel the "off vibe" that I had gotten from Prince Hans. They, for the most part, were too introverted to engage. Prince Aloysius complimented my dress in ways that aren't worth mentioning, but I have nothing unusual to report about the other brothers.
Out of courtesy, I'm going to bypass the details of the feast to talk about the ballroom dance instead. King Ragnar, Prince Aloysius, Prince Palmar, Prince Jeronimus, and King Kasimir asked me for one dance each ― and some obviously had vaguer intentions than others ― but I used King Ragnar's invitation to address him about the unanswered letter I had sent. The king didn't act ignorant, oblivious, or mendacious like I thought he would; he said chauvinism led to the ostracization of your men. The coast guards were suspended in that same week for mixing ethics with obligations. In King Ragnar's own opinion, the seamen ignored your men's longboat because both it and the attire of its passengers bore Corona's insignia. He followed up with this supposition by echoing the history between the people of the Southern Isles and Corona. He believes their saga is so full of hatred that it bred his natives to act on their bigotry.
I was reluctant to accept this commentary, but his explanation has some support, if we take a look at the invasions between Corona and the Southern Isles before the Age of Illumination. I also know some Nordic countries, principally kingdoms with homogeneous societies, feel ethnically superior to those who aren't a part of that Nordic greenbelt. Yet the Southern Isles has long promoted a jingoistic institution alongside an uneducated idea of anthropology, and only recently have the old king's sons tried to recant it. King Ragnar's exegesis about the relationship between those conventions and how your men were treated made sense in that light. It doesn't mean there isn't elbowroom for this to just be another way of putting the blame on his people like King Kasimir is accused of doing by you, but it's worth noting.
Our dance ended with Ragnar saying he'd like to meet with you personally when you're ready. I told him to write to you about it before any more time goes by. These brothers definitely have a bad habit of "expressing their disapproval" to everyone but the victims of the situation after it's over. I can see why you suspect a false front. I was a little aggravated with him myself; it was almost like he expected me to persuade you to speak with him for him.
Prince Aloysius is the only brother who made me feel tense during my dance with him. I met him for the first time at Rapunzel's memorial service, and he was very altruistic and adoring back then. On this particular night, his adoration was more than I could handle. Normally, noblemen don't reveal their thoughts so easily, but I could feel his on every part of my body. Anna felt them as well and interrupted us at the perfect time.
My waltz with King Kasimir was concluded in a hallway not too far from the waltzers. The distance was just enough to keep onlookers from hearing us, but we didn't have the privacy I would've wanted. The shadows flitting across his face were also distracting in a sinister way. The good thing is that I didn't have to dodge any small talk to get to the point. He told me what he had been waiting to tell me all night, and it comprised of three red flags:
1) Prince Hans
2) Your past
3) King Ragnar
Prince Hans will be having his ban lifted in a little over a year. Arendelle was under the impression that he would be living in exile for the rest of his life, but evidently, this isn't what his late father ordered. King Kasimir promised me that Hans will never have the freedom to leave the Southern Isles, but he says Hans has "dirt" on you that he may or may not come forward with in one way or another. I asked him what it was; he claimed to know no more than that, but he's obviously withholding it. Why Hans would even try to tarnish your reputation over mine is beyond my apprehension.
I personally only know what Corona released in a publication that read, "Prince 'Eugene Fitzherbert' was an illegitimate son raised in an orphanage outside of the kingdom. He ran away at eleven and, in the words of his peers, 'dropped off the face of the planet.'" It goes on to say that after you saved Rapunzel from her kidnapper, your late father's noble family came out and claimed you as his in order to add more "value" to your title before you married my cousin. That was what I read at eighteen to get an idea of whom my parents were visiting.
I didn't question it back then, but if there is something unfavorable not being said, then it would be in yours and Corona's best interests to reveal it. Secrets damage more than the keeper's conscience. It damages lives and relationships. I know by firsthand experience. Nevermind what I've said here if this isn't the case.
The Ragnar equation didn't involve you, so I won't spend too much time on it. I thought about not including it in the letter at all, but I know you'll hear about it through the grapevine and then write to me next month asking why I didn't tell you on my own. The bottom line is that King Kasimir would like to look into making a match, and it's one my council has been considering since my birthday. If there weren't so many cons pitted against me by my age, the constitution, and its morganatic laws, I wouldn't have to think it over, but miserably, I must.
I'm sorry that this letter doesn't provide much "intel" in the long-run. I promised to write to you about the banquet, and so I have. It looks like I'm rambling more than anything, but I hope it's at least something.
II of March, 1847
Chapter 9: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Mar. 11th)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
My messenger returned from Corona with an invitation to your coronation. I'm afraid that I won't be able to attend because I'll be confined on loathly southern cays for another two weeks. At present, Anna is superintending Arendelle as my regent, but an envoy will be sent to your cathedral in place of us. I hear that my "hypothetical husband" will also be writing his salutations.
Other monarchs from other kingdoms, however, have been very open about their disapproval of Corona's choice to ceremonially crown you. I hope you haven't let that discourage you from going through with the service like the announcements say you have. Just continue to keep sight of your purpose and the man who swore he wouldn't break his promise to my cousin. Anna and I will be holding your hand in spirit right alongside Rapunzel.
XI of March, 1847
Wishing you the best of luck,
Chapter 10: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Mar. 23rd)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
This letter is going to be a goliath, so please bear with me. I binge-read your epistles late last night after rocking my baby girl to sleep, and I'm pretty much still straining to keep my eyes open as we speak (or ink). That might turn up in my butchered deliveries, but I'm doing what I can to give each point a deserving amount of attention. I'd just like to add one head note to my update before I get to the main text:
What did you mean by "confined on loathly southern cays," exactly? I could be mistaking figurative speech for literal speech, and I'm 50% certain that you're not talking about the Southern Isles, but I'm 50% certain that you're talking about the Southern Isles, so some clarification would greatly ease my conscience. In the interim of that, I'll expand on your other material:
The shipwreck: I have got to thank you in person for taking care of my messenger and his escorts. They had plenty to say about your "benignancy" and "pulchritude" coupled with a novel of swoony tales about how you checked up on them everyday. They probably had a little too much to say about the pulchritude part, but what can do you? Men will be men. Overall, they're a grateful lot who will probably be clogging your drawers with fan mail in the near future.
Respectively, Bogohardt is not the only one who's talked about mermaids in the Nördlich Sea (this would be the name Corona uses, in case you were thrown off by my umlaut). That's been an on-going rumor for a while. At this juncture in my life, I'm apt to believe in unicorns, so mermaids aren't too out-of-water for my sanity levels.
The Valentine gifts: Don't fret over them getting destroyed. It probably would've gotten lost in all the other packages you were getting from twitterpated suitors, anyway. Birthdays will be coming up sometime soon, so that's when I'll be able to make it up to you. Her Highness and Her Majesty fall under the Gemini and Virgo zodiacs, if I'm not mistaken.
The Magic Golden Flower: I haven't thought about any parts of the flower still being alive inside of me at all. If it were, it might've been born with Izzy, but by the look of things, that isn't what happened. Would that be spectacular, however? Oh, absolutely; I've always wanted to have supernatural powers, and what could be better than healing powers? I could have saved my own wife.
Isolde's recovery: I am to infinity and beyond proud of my baby girl. Inspired is another appropriate adjective. I could honestly learn a thing or two from her fortitude. Humorously enough, Izzy's starting to favor me more than she favors Rapunzel. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I guess only time will tell.
Please do me a favor by not apologizing for your candor. Every time you do, I feel bad. Your simile was totally relatable; I haven't been to any snow-capped mountains lately, but I know being in the mountains, miles away from kingdoms and laws, generates a feeling of euphoria. The height frees you from all of the ground level dust and debris, doesn't it? No matter what my day's been like, I try to spend the beginning and end of it with Izzy to keep that feeling alive. I've even been reading a special book series to her, which I know she'll appreciate ten times more when she's older. Except for a few minor tweaks on the behalf of creative license, it's a retelling of her mother's adventures that was written by yours truly; Rapunzel is always sitting there beside me when she hears me reading it to her, too.
The only downside to our quality time is that my physician thinks the cause of my back pain is my aversion to sleeping in my own room, but I feel like it's my job to be at Isolde's side as her father, so that's something both he and my vertebrae will just have to get used to. I also stated in my previous note that I would definitely appreciate more of a head's up the next time you send physicians to the palace; my trust in doctors is still weak. But yes, I fully understand why you made the moves you did in the time frame that you did. You examined the situation and launched into action.
Trollsome Pabbie: I've never heard of rock trolls in all thirty-eight years of my life. If I had known that, I might've been a little more ambivalent towards the remedy and missed out on a grand opportunity to help my daughter. Magic is okay with me; magic I'm unfamiliar with is a no-go. I can't lie to you about the magic charm you packaged, either. It took me days to poke it.
Dr. Ingul did happen to drop a line about it soothing the skin of infants without neonatal encephalopathy (the amount of syllables in this word is pure torture), but I haven't put it in Izzy's bed. I really hope I'm not offending you by saying this. It's not that I think you would harm Isolde, but I've never seen your powers in healthy action (or any action, for that matter), and it's harder for me to be okay with giving Isolde something that I myself don't know much about in regards to its stability. Instead of keeping it locked up in my study forever, I am going to send it back to you in April once we've established our new mail mammal.
It's rather dazzling, nonetheless. Mesmerizing, even. Anna's comparison was spot-on; the aesthetic appeal is so remarkable that you would think it came straight out of a fairy tale. What you did for those orphans sounds like it was frightening, wonderful, and inspiriting all in one stint. I have to commend you on your bravery.
I'm curious, though: since it was such a success, aren't you worried about the attention it'll accumulate from chemists? I know you three are holding off on publicity and commercialization, but no matter when you choose to unveil the merits of supernatural science, the payoff will unlid a can of worms. I'm not aiming to add more weight to your load; I was just thinking about it last night.
The Ice Leaf: My apologies for keeping you in suspense with that indeliberate cliff-hanger. What I was saying was that there's nothing frosty about the Ice Leaf; the cringe-worthy name is purely aesthetic. There was a debate about whether it should have been called the Frostflower or Jack Frost, but I personally thought those were worse. Anyway, the petals are white with yellow anthers, and the only usable parts are the silver stalk's resin, the root, and most outstandingly, the leaves themselves. Anyone who soaks them can tell you they don't have any magical properties, but that doesn't mean their herbal qualities aren't worth acknowledging.
What's more is that these flowers are perfect for opening up the lungs, which worked wonders on Isolde's. I really never factored the Ice Leaf into her situation until your team swooped in like the seraphs they are. No one could tell me what the cause of her episodes was before now. Since I finally have more leverag, and thankfully managed to open myself up to alternative remedies, life has been much kinder to my girl. Dr. Waldus brought the stalk back, used the indispensable pieces, combined it with the Maullow root juice from Arendelle, let us mix it together with her therapy diet in the mornings, and voilá. She's been breathing better on her own ever since.
Best of all, stimulating her pleural activity and massaging her chest with lobelia oil at dawn — as opposed to reviving her whenever she pauses for too long — has reduced those scary scenarios by and large. Isolde arrived at 36.5 weeks, so she's still a premature baby with particular needs that we need to work around, but her chances at a good life are far better than they would've been at 30 or 24 weeks. I don't know how to thank you and your team. All of you have exceeded my expectations.
On a side note, honesty is never inappropriate. It's a requirement. Had this been orphan Eugene reading this, he would've objected against your testimony, but on the sheer strength of my new experiences, I understand your opinion about objectification and glorification being one and the same when you're a sovereign (or prince). What I will add is that you're actually treated as an object regardless of whether you're a sovereign or a peasant. To the people behind the crown, both are tools; to the people supporting it, you're either a god or a nobody, and therein that unhappy little system, hardly ever human.
But according to you, we have each other, so hopefully we can collaborate against those powers abaft us to smooth out the bumpy mortar that lies between Arendelle-Corona relations.
The famine response method: I think your plan is exquisite. The first sign of crop trouble may have been the influx of wooly aphids covering my gardens last year, which are rather bizarre immigrants. Mildew began growing on vegetables, legumes, grapevines, hops, squash, and other cucurbits several months later in the villages of Hohendorf. The strange mist from the sea has turned stalks black and ruined some of what they had in storage for winter.
All of these rapid climate changes keep depressing the yields we rely on, so unrelenting rain did cause prices on salt for meat preservation, wheat, and grain to climb. Many poor people in Hohendorf didn't have access to the foods that were being stored because of those prices, which I couldn't lower; not knowing what else to do, I built small meal centers from the ground up instead. Animal diseases carried over from the ships of foreign livestock breeders recently stormed Gustrow, putting the onus on the Crown. Trade ministers think stopping traffic is a must. Meanwhile, you think closing ports would stop every layer of this cataclysm from going bad to worse, yet my councilmen have a foot in both camps...
The public thinks we're at a brush with the bubonic plague, but I promise you that's nowhere near the case. Be that as it may, the hardest part of all this is figuring out "how" we should go about monitoring and containing conditions. We've separated the sick livestock from the people in Gustrow and quarantined those who have already gotten sick by placing them in the isolated care of holistic doctors. I don't like it, but I've maxed out every other option.
As things stand right now, some of the Gustrow toddlers who haven't eaten in weeks aren't able to digest food, and the food therapy I was given is too strong for their stomachs, but I have a plan that will reverse the clocks. I always have a plan.
Your coronation: Did I stare? Again, my apologies. I can guarantee you that it wasn't because you were horrifying. Not visually, anyway. Was I horrified? Well, yes and no.
To clear the air, I was trying to figure out if what I saw was more than a delusional head trip on my part, so I might've been gawking at the intimidating possibility of you harboring sci-fi powers. Weselton saved you from my gawking way faster than I could blink, so there wasn't much that I could've said. I was willing to keep it that way. One particular thought was very constant: you were afraid, and that wasn't the demeanor of a monster.
In any case, I wouldn't have gone out on some "noble" mission to expose your magic. Maybe babble to my wife in gibberish, but I wasn't going to grab a pitchfork and tell everyone to go light their torches. In the eyes of Prince Eugene, whatever you were hiding and whatever you had wasn't anyone's business except your own. Now, I regret not having actually said something when I first saw that helpless look on your face; I absolutely should've said something, but instead, I let you walk away. I'm sorry for that.
—MIA is actually just an abbreviation for "Missing in Action." And yes, I did snort when you asked.
The banquet: I suspected that you would attend no matter what I told you. You come off as the type of matriarch who can't be swayed once her mind has been made up (I hate to say that it's actually admirable). I was going to send an envoy to the banquet just to keep an eye on you, but that plan never fell through. I highly respect what you said about dehumanization and impartiality; you've got my vote. I just have trouble distancing my objectivity from my intuition in this scenario.
King Ragnar's explanation does hold water, but I have to go with my gut instinct on this one and say that he most likely is trying to vindicate himself. I haven't received a letter yet — not even one of salutations. On top of that, this reenactment about Prince Aloysius made me feel tense because it looks like Kasimir and Ragnar let him to harass you. There's a certain way to handle a woman even if her beauty gives you "adult butterflies," and making her uncomfortable isn't it. That legitimately hit a nerve in me and I wasn't even in his arms.
If you'd ever like me to pummel him one day, just say the magic word. I'm sure we can arrange something in the back of an alley.
My coronation: It didn't go as concerted. Frederic's crown jewels were stolen by two convicts, but they haven't been found. That delayed the coronation and climactically sent everyone packing. The lack of royal attendance is making us reconsider putting on another one. I can't say I'm disappointed.
What other kings were saying wasn't anything new. I'm used to being lynched. I stuck it out as Prince Eugene and I can't do anything except stick it out as King Eugene, but with everything that's been happening, it did pile up on me this time around, so I fell prey to a moment of weakness. That wasn't why I wanted to call off the coronation, however.
It was because of the predicaments in Gustrow; those need far more coverage than libels from people traveling halfway across the world to see me crowned.
The three red flags:
1) Prince Hans
I'm not even a little bit daunted by this caveat. Hans and I have a very brief yet briny history together. To make a long story short, he tried to get me pinned under a chandelier on my wedding day. I never mined any evidence to support that feeling in the bones and neither did I speak on that feeling in the bones. It really was buried underneath my subconscious, but after word got out about what he did to Her Highness and Her Majesty, I was sure of it then: he had graduated from trying to widow a princess to trying to widow a kingdom.
2) My past
Don't dwell on it. No matter what he verbally dishes out, I've got it taken care of.
The publication: I was never claimed by anyone. They just decided to put out an interview about me being a royal duke's illegitimate son. He's not dead, either. I don't know what part of the world he's in, but he hasn't claimed me, so the Bishop of Corona pardoned my illegitimacy for my marriage.
3) King Ragnar
Please tell me that you're not actually going to accept this viper's offer. There have to be other gung-ho suitors fainting at your feet — ones without reptilian DNA. I know Princess Anna has a morganatic marriage, I understand biological clocks, and I get that the Storting is looking for "guaranteed equanimity" to keep your kingdoms "permanently" cordial, but this isn't cosigning international peace, this is cosigning suicide. This is literally everything Hans has ever dreamed of.
Pardon me for being so forward, but I'm wracking my brain for another way to word this. For your own safety, I very much hope that Your Majesty does not go through with that marriage. Just hold off on procreation for a little longer.
XXIII of March, 1847
To Your Majesty the King,
It's wonderful to hear from you again. It's always interesting to read your colorful catchphrases and quasi-colloquial expressions; they have a lot of personality and subliminal messages that I'd like to crack. I wouldn't prescribe binge-reading my next stack because I don't want you expending your energy in one sitting. If it's alright with you, I'm going to start from the bottom of your letter and work my way up.
1) King Ragnar
Your Majesty, I would like to "hold off on procreation" and husbands for the rest of my life, but I don't have the liberty to neglect my responsibilities at the age I am reaching. I refused marriage proposals in my early twenties because I promised the Storting that I would fulfill my commitments to the crown before my thirtieth birthday. Now I have to compete with other odds that I underestimated six years ago. Uncountable men don't want to have children with me for obvious reasons, and I came to terms with that; others think I'm a succubus in reverse to a wholesome woman, and I swallowed that, too. The ones who would and did consider me are disinclined to now because I'm not a young girl anymore; I'm what the continent calls a "leftover woman."
While I didn't say yes to the suggestion of King Ragnar because of a gestational countdown, the point you made about guaranteed equanimity is incredibly pivotal. The rocky relationship between our kingdoms, which once steered us into a dual monarchy in the 16th century, has always hinged on retaining neutral ground. Since his father's reign, impartiality has been drowned out by screaming matches. In late March, we got ourselves into a screaming match after his Ministry of Integration reportedly bankrolled a guerrilla attack on freedom fighters who were protesting against their abuse of indentured servants from the Kiribati Isles. The latter is an old friend of Arendelle's that has recently retreated into a state of isolationism.
As you and I both calculated, King Kasimir thought that joining in marriage would polarize our ideological differences in this jingoistic equation. One third of the Storting must have thought the same. Fortunately, I do know better. Arendelle has never had a wave of immigrants, but my homeland and the Southern Isles are on two completely different chapters when it boils down to basic human rights. Marriages don't unite incompatible partners, and they certainly don't unite incompatible kingdoms.
The Statsrådet and King Kasimir could be right about Arendelle becoming a good influence on the Southern Isles, but the odds of a civil war would be lower if King Ragnar was already doing something about his country's retrogression. He says he wants the Southern Isles to be anti-bellicistic, but he hasn't tried to inspire that in his people. He took a passive stance on these March attacks. What's more is that succession in Arendelle is determined by male preference primogeniture. Without an Act of Parliament to limit his power, my future husband will be styled king by jure uxoris.
The way my kingdom charged its head of state with treason after so readily hailing Hans was only one example of my political vulnerability as a woman. Two of many things that I've always admired about your relationship with Rapunzel was the way you treated her as your wife and friend. Never did you try to conquer and colonize her. If I ever marry, I will need someone who can treat me with the same respect, but King Kasimir is not that man. Whatever happens, tensions between our kingdoms can't be whitewashed if we want rapprochement in the long run, so I had to give my answer with delicacy and objectivity.
I tried to explain the pros and cons of marriage to King Ragnar as we went back and forth about his political passivity on our "private date" in Arendelle. He unconvincingly agreed to put off the union to inculcate a moral change in his kingdom, but he asked to present Prince Aloysius as an alternative. By and by, I lose patience and points with my council and, evidently, my "excuses". . .
.. . ..I'm so sick and tired of fighting with the world of men that I don't know how to cope with this . . .. .
But you and I can discuss this at a later date. Tonight isn't the right time, and my notions are taking an improper turn. I apologize.. .
2) Your past
I don't mean to sound forward or overbearing, but that's not an answer. I respect that it'll take a few years for you to get comfortable with depending on me, but I can't help but feel like you flatter me in some places and dodge me in others. At first I thought it was just your personality, but the blasé and often merry tones behind some of your statements seem inauthentic when you say everything will be or is under your control. Your colorful phrases come off like unnatural mitigators in your letter. We don't have to be glued at the hip, but please don't be intentionally illusive; it creates a counterproductive grey area.
3) Prince Hans
I never knew that. Why did you keep this bad blood in the dark for six years? You probably thought it wasn't relevant to bring up before this leak, but it would've been something valuable to talk about beyond "Happy Birthday" letters and "Merry Christmas" cards.
Your coronation: Now that I did hear. They were written to have crossed our borders as of April 1st. If you can supply their names, my men can supply a search and seize behind a fresh pursuit in Arendelle.
The banquet: You judged right. I do use my intuition, but I only make final judgments when there's evidence to support my analysis. Conversely, my visit wasn't the investigation I was conducting. I wanted to have your testimony for a private eye and his team. They're a bit of an unorthodox trio, but they're trustworthy.
I apologize for getting you riled up over Prince Aloysius. I'm a little ignorant about the in-and-out's of "adult butterflies," having never felt any towards a man myself, so I didn't know it took that much self-restraint for one to control his natural urges in public. I'm not ignorant to the fact that my wardrobe is "risqué" to beholders, but I won't point the finger at myself; his discipline is his responsibility, not mine. He did try to apologize to me for his vulgarity days after the banquet by blaming his actions on alcohol despite not looking, acting, or smelling drunk at all that night, but I don't want you to pummel him. I already have Anna.
My coronation: "In the eyes of Prince Eugene, whatever you were hiding and whatever you had wasn't anyone's business except your own." — This explanation is actually a lot more compassionate than you could ever imagine, but what do you mean by "not visually, anyway?" Was that an innuendo or am I reading into it too much?
"(...) MIA is just an abbreviation for "Missing in Action." — If that's what it stands for, then I deserve to be made fun of.
The famine response method: What you're doing is inevitable. If you don't isolate the sick from the healthy, then the result will be out of your hands. Continue to treat them in a safe environment and don't be afraid to add guards to those quarantined areas. Simply make sure the patients are being treated humanely by personnel and herbalists in the location. Their motivation to fight this enemy will also rely on your courage, so be accessible by showing compassion like any human to another.
I am shipping peanut pastes and milk powder formulas to you as we speak. Have your doctors mix them with water before giving them to the children for four months until they're able to stomach solid foods. If there are any other supplies you need, have your representative write a list to me. If I can get the Storting on my side, either I, Anna, or both of us will be on Corona's island to help you. Should something happen before then, I want you to come to Arendelle with your daughter. That isn't a request.
The Ice Leaf: Based on how effective it sounds, I hope you've already chosen to use it on the people who might need the flower stalk in Hohendorf. Villagers with the cough will benefit from an expectorant.
Isolde's recovery: No thanks is necessary. As I've stated time and again, you and Isolde are my family members. When you talk to me about how well you two are, I'm able to sleep. When weeks pass without a letter, it's another story entirely.
A lot like how you might not want me to apologize for my candor (which I still need to), I don't want you to think that I'd be offended by your own. I understand your decision perfectly. No offense has been felt. This will be our last exchange via harbor until winter comes, so it would be better if you sent it back to me on ship.
I've read about your book series. It's a critically acclaimed piece of work. I'd love to read the actual chapters once we finally see each other.
The blanket: I won't say I'm not worried or haven't thought about what you conjectured. I see it play out in my mind all the time. I'll simply have to prepare myself for the advantages and disadvantages when I'm ready for that hurdle. I already know that there are extremists who want to perform surgeries on my body, and/or invite me to their countries for "special" tests; this has been and will forever be my life regardless of whether I welcome it or not. I've managed to make it this far without walking into a cage.
Though at twenty-seven, I feel and know that using my powers to help people on a global scale is bigger than myself and my fears. It's a purpose I've shouldered to atone for the trouble I caused at twenty-one. My life has more meaning when I wield it to benefit someone else. That responsibility is mutually exclusive with being one of multiple world leaders.
The Valentine gift: Discounting a boy named Fredmund, your Valentines present would've been the first I ever received from someone other than Anna, Sven, and Olaf, so it wouldn't have gotten lost between anything.
I'm actually not born under the Virgoan Sun. You're the ninth man who's pitched that as more of a statement than a question. I don't know enough about the Virgin Queen zodiac to draw comparisons, but I guess I'm sending strong "Harvest Maiden" vibes. As a matter of fact, I was born on the winter solstice and Anna was born on the summer solstice. You used to mail us birthday greetings, remember? Yours will be in September (that'll be the Libra, isn't that right?), which means I'm obligated to send you a gift first; you're not thirty-eight just yet.
The shipwreck: Once more, no thanks is necessary; I had to do it, so you don't have to thank me. Your people are one of my top priorities. I definitely think I'll pass on hearing what else your men had to say, but do send them my greatest regards. They were wonderful gentlemen to my staff and I.
Practically speaking, I don't have much to say about the mermaid buzz other than I prefer to believe something when I see it after all other logical possibilities have been overruled.
The southern mountains: My wording was a little melodramatic, wasn't it? I was repairing my threatened standing with the formerly seceded Båhus, which lies south of Arendelle's borders. I hope that eases your conscience.
VI of April, 1847
Praying for your safety,
P.S. That last image of you rocking Isolde was heartwarming. I can't wait to spend those moments with her as well.
Fredmund is a Frozen character who crushed on Elsa in the post-canon book series, "Sisterhood is the Strongest Magic." Got attention from her and everything because she thought it was cute. Lucky little underaged bastard.
[Bruh, I could kill AO3 for this weird spacing thing it's been doing...]
Settling on Elsa's birthday was hard. The film AND the new 'Hans-centric' canon book imply that she was born in summer. The latter outright says, "Elsa arranged her entire coronation right after her birthday," so in the UotC-universe, "summer" was meant to be her birthday.
But then I realized that Jennifer Lee (writer/director) tweeted two years ago that Elsa was born on the winter solstice, which is literally seven months or more before coronation day's summer setting.
So I'm confused. The two pretty much cancel each other out.
In the end, I just decided to go with Jennifer's tweet because she's the writer. Elsa being born in summer IS way less cliche (and it makes sense of Olaf wanting to be a snowman "in summer"), but hey...
Chapter 12: ༺☀Dear Elsa (May. 25th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
I haven't heard from Your Majesty in over a month, and I more than likely won't be hearing from you again for a very long time, but I've taken it upon myself to make do with the pigeon post. I was going to use this blank sheet of vellum to write about how offended I was by some of your implications and undertones in the middle of April, but none of that matters anymore. I'm very sorry that you feel like I'm not "being real" with you, Your Majesty, and maybe I have been forcing myself to bite off more than I can chew, but if I have your permission to be real right now, then I have to say that you've given me the same impression five times out of ten. I feel like you do a lot that you force yourself to do even though you shouldn't.
For one, you ignore your health. You apologize for fragile moments that make you feel more organic to me. You replace them with extravagant language and formalities despite, on this particular report, leaving some tear stains on your letter. The fact that you're stressed out, irritated with me, unable to sleep, and angry about an abominable situation is not completely explicit all throughout the letter, but I can feel it steaming off compound predicates that even look polite and proper. I'm probably overstepping my boundaries by saying this, but these are what my honest thoughts look like; no spiel and no puns. (And very little sobriety, since I'm not totally liquor-free today).
I'm not looking to incriminate you or make you feel guilty, or wrong, or like you're not talking to me the way you should be, but I think we have habits that are so similar, it's almost frightening. Somewhere down the line, those habits will have to be accepted as parts of the packages that you and I come in. The other facets of this conversation will have to be put on the back burner because I want to talk about what I woke up to this morning. I received something that turned what balancing acts our kingdoms had very upside down, if not my whole world. This is the physical page of the news column:
HER ROYAL SORCERESS
WRANGLES WITH PARLIAMENT
In the hour of April's first cockcrow, Queen Elsa of Arendelle shipped cartons of Nutrition Therapy across the sea for the emaciated children of Corona, "a move which cost her shippers their health eftsoons," Storting members say. The sick seamen returned to the North with fevers that claimed half of the Hanseatic Wharf eftsoons. Special healthcare hospitals were quarantined and eastern medicine was delivered by Chatho and Chosŏn, something Corona has yet to see a jar of. Exotic disease specialists in Arendelle have given the outbreak a name:
"It's a lesser known ague, but Chosŏn and Chatho called it the Bovi Fever in the 30's, which is short for "bovine" and "bovidae" fever," explained Dr. Aldrik. "Grazing livestock that inhale bacterial spores are the main hosts. They start to abort fetuses, get weak in the shins, lose appetites, and more. Predators and humans can naturally get infected by eating those sick animals or exposing themselves to their feces, urine, and milk. Contact with the latter can also infect other livestock. It spreads like a forest fire."
He goes on to say that some people don't show signs until a week later, while others show them erelong, "Early stages can be handled, but late and chronic ones can take four years of remissions and rebounds to nix. Arendelle caught it at the early stage. A less developed country with a rural outbreak may not."
Obviously, Arendelle's experts don't conceal their insularism. Cures have been distributed to their wharf and more than 70% of the town's patients have been rehabilitated. Corona can't even begin to utter the same. Rather than showing reluctance to future contact, Queen Elsa told columnists on April 27th at the 1st World Conference that she plans on sharing the inoculations with our kingdom. She says that this can only be accomplished by asking for support from the East and rationing what Arendelle has currently, but a good slice of the continent hasn't been willing to support Corona since March.
"After the backlash King Eugene received before his cancelled coronation, it seems like sovereign states have decided to shut Corona out over a rumor from the North," the queen boldly implied. She also shared her plan to meet with King Eugene in Corona, as well as villagers, government officials, and famine victims, to "improve the quality of life for the people of Corona," because she can't "turn a blind eye" to her cousin's homeland.
As bold and beautiful as the shapely conjurer is, this praiseworthy posturing will hardly bear fruits in the real world, and it doesn't look like she's putting up much of a fight:
"Her Majesty wishes to reestablish fractured relations between Arendelle and Corona after Queen Rapunzel's state funeral, but the timing is against her," Deputy Chairman Stoltenberg argued. "A visit to a poorly quarantined country is a hazardous proposal, and it's inadvisable. There are peers in the Storting who may support her campaign, but there are others who oppose it. Her Majesty can't fight King Eugene's battles and lick his wounds for him at the expense of her own or Arendelle's."
Votes in the Storting have blocked Her Majesty from using federal funds for a month's tarriance in Corona as of May 15th. Citizens have rioted for the Storting to revise the "Spending Funds Act" clauses, but Deputy Stoltenberg says no such thing will be done until Corona has become a safe zone.
No new reports or speeches have been given by Her Majesty as of late.
Before I say, do, or completely ruin anything else, I deeply apologize from the bottom of my worthless existence for endangering Arendelle, your sister, and you, Elsa. By not adding enough guards to Hohendorf's quarantine camps, I jeopardized the entire operation as well as everyone's safety, including the citizens on the island. That one mistake is killing me as it kills even more in Corona and Arendelle. This piece of garbage is spewing provocative jabs to get a rise out of both kingdoms.
I can't even sit here and think about how much blood the Storting is drawing out of you, but I agree with at least one thing Stoltenberg said. Put and take care of yourself first before you try to take care of us, me, or anyone else. Your life depends on it. Please stay safe.
XXV of May, 1847
LETTERS OF LAST RESORT
The Prime Minister of Arendelle,
To our WIDOWED and ESTEEMED King of Corona,
On June 1st, Your Majesty's humble affine, Queen Elsa of Arendelle, was struck by the Bovi Fever in the orphanage of Hordaland. Her Majesty the Queen, the Storting, and the Statsrådet have since entrusted I, Baldor Håakonsson, with the task of reading and responding to your final letter of address. As we have good cause, Arendelle gives you all of Her gratitude for the intense passion, love, and affection you have unveiled for Her queen, as well as towards the troubles of her heart and her cousin's country. Of myself, I must insist that Corona's September journalist requires your council's unbiased attention for his recent article's lack of sooth:
In May, Stoltenberg silenced protesters with his controversial polemic, "Corona has incubated the most pervasive Bovi Fever outbreak on the continent. Is it not logical for the Storting to want to keep another blaze off Arendelle's coast? The Hanseatic port town has already seen three infants die. Parliament vows to consider lifting its ban against Corona once King Eugene has controlled the tantrums in his country. Only then can Arendelle begin safely exporting supplies and medical workers to his healthcare centers. The decision in question needs no further explanation."
Wellaway, Hohendorf's unshakable famine, unhygienic conditions, loose quarantines, and understaffed infirmaries have led to a death rate of 34% amain. Hohendorf's five villages (Schalense, Zarnitz, Gustrow, Vorpomern, and Mecklenburg) have lost 200 or more victims in the span of nearly eight months, wiping out two of the five communities on the yonside. Crown dependencies are also under fire.
"It's a graveyard in Hohendorf," exclaims Hänel Constantine, Corona's current Guardian of the Crown. "We're still sewing up bodies."
Suppressed infections in treatment workers, security guards, and vagabonds have stretched the outbreak from Hohendorf's municipality to 70% of Rugen's district, which is only a bridge away from Corona's port city.
"King Eugene has made several mistakes out of ignorance," says one doctor. "He would transfer understaffed treatment centers to other villages after believing one area had been soothed only to find the virus flaring back up in that same region. These sporadic flares in remote locations have made it impossible for Corona to contain it. We need more handlers, more adequate sanitation, and more human resources. At their most immedicable states, infectees have started to bleed both externally and internally. Our woes continue to multiply; the time is nigh for help."
Oblivious to Corona's climbing mortality rate, the sorceress of Arendelle was said to have still written a disaster emergency letter on May 28th, in which she appealed for money, inoculations, and donations internationally.
"The onus she's put on herself has been hurting her," observed Baldor Håakonsson, the Prime Minister of Arendelle. "You can see it in her face. She looks aged."
Alack, one particular wanion has kept her fundraisers and bankers from making a dent in Corona's fate: "Arendelle's travel ban on Corona may scare other countries into shutting their borders to the kingdom as well, so it is possible that no one will be sailing into our harbor at the risk of their own personage," Hänel Constantine said in spring. "I'm sure Queen Elsa's parliament is trying to get her to redirect her energy from Corona and King Eugene to Arendelle and Prince Aloysius."
Rumor has it that the government of the Southern Isles has promised to groom Kiribas into bringing supplies to Corona in exchange for Arendelle's throne.
"It's just a silly rumor," the queen's adviser barked at newshawks on May 31st. "We've discussed no such bargain."
Otherwhere, King Eugene's reign has self-destructed this September, and Lord Constantine acknowledges it. "Because of low harvest and premature Bovi Fever, His Majesty chose to close Corona's trading ports in February to tackle early famine," Constantine explained. "But by doing so, much needed foreign traffic and imports ceased. Now because of what's happened to Arendelle's charity ships, Corona's closer trade partners may also emplace official trade and travel bans. That would mean that what food we can, did, and have stocked up will be limited to those who can afford it," bristles Lord Constantine.
"It's hard enough dividing all that between capital citizens, nobles, and rural villagers," he adds, "but the lack of abundance in Hohendorf forced the quarantined to escape isolation in search of more, and that search spilled into the port city."
Escaped infectees have already tried to break through the watchmen guarding the capital's bridge. His Majesty galloped onto the scene in hopes of verbally diffusing a violent scuffle between guards and children yesterday morning, but a sick teen got loose and spat into his eye. "You're a useless king-replacement!" the boy cried.
"Symptoms haven't appeared yet, but he and those who will treat him are being monitored as we speak," verified Constantine. "This is the most afraid he's ever been, and the worst he will ever thole. We've already had to guzzle the poisoning of the king. Now he's subjected himself to a virus."
A portcullis with a metal grill is being installed into the barbican that once welcomed people into Corona's capital without barriers.
"We have to keep the ill out, and metal bars are our last resort," Lord Constantine said.
Yet on that same afternoon, two port citizens were found to have consumed undercooked goat meat housing the infection. The complete depopulation of Corona could be an alarming reality if other countries don't step in where Arendelle fell back. The death of King Eugene could be another.
"But who's willing to sacrifice their own people, especially kingdoms that have just bounced back from potato blight and plagues?" sobbed the mother of one infected port citizen. "The East is saying there aren't enough remedies to help Arendelle and Corona at the same time, the West is saying Corona needs to fix its own country, and the South is echoing whatever Arendelle says."
According to Stoltenberg, there ia more to the world's betrayal than that. "Arendelle has passed no judgment onto His Majesty, but other countries may not care for the king or Corona after their rumored censorship of his background," he said in a May 31st press release.
Baldor Håakonsson elaborated on this new malison in August, "The scandal about His Majesty's past, which so many kings have already circulated without holding any knowledge of what said scandal involved, was finally printed in a Southern Isles newspaper this July."
Its anonymous writer detailed King Eugene's missing timeline among whom he worked for as a violent, virgin-deflowering, crown-snatching goon. The list apparently included commissioners like King Ignatius and Prince Algoth, two brothers who were known to hire henchmen for royal thefts all over the world.
"King Ignatius and Prince Algoth are the late father and assassinated uncle of King Ragnar. The latter has not confirmed their connection to King Eugene," Baldor stated. "The newspaper's letter cites no proof, testimonies, or living persons therein, but best believe that this stylish info would unfortunately be enough for other kingdoms to entertain. King Eugene's endangerment - and Corona's "lying criminal-crowners" - may neither be a loss nor a concern to them at all."
The wheels of fate don't stop turning there. Corona was late to the news, but it has come to the choir that the Storting's worst nightmare was brought on by their own kingdom instead of Corona in June. May our prayers save Her Royal Sorceress from the Bovi. We in Corona, who have tholed the brunt of the Bovi Fever without handouts, wonder if Arendelle and all its toe-suckers will be able to fix their own countries with them.
[ Written by J. Abelard ]
I therefore have an answer I will make and it is this: the hand that Arendelle and Her Majesty have been dealt has lit two glims:
1) Modern examination of the Bovi Fever's behavior and evolution.
2) Alternatives that Arendelle now feel confident enough to bestow unto Corona's populace for the behoof of your kingdom.
Your country's glamorized reports of eastern inoculations being quick fixes for Arendelle are misleading and purblind. In sooth, Corona's tertian sickness has survived in the fluids of Arendelle's victims even after the majority have made their recoveries. Such benightedness caused the Hanseatic port's outbreaks to eventuate in more afflictions. Discharged patients were liable to spread the infection through intercourse, broken skin, vomit, sweat, fecal matter, breast milk, and urine without monitorship. Chatho could not offer explanations to the phenomenon; thuswise, we had to learn on our own that the demon could linger in an ex-patient's fluids for one month before fully dissipating.
Of our discoveries, the Bovi Fever was found to shed itself into body fluids during the incubation period. Neither Arendelle nor the East knew how "far" transmissions could extend at the outset. In due course, we managed to practice a successfully monitored regimen for recovered patients, but those preliminary months of unawareness victimized Arendelle's wharfside infants and women. For Corona's knowledge, the time is fit for your country's articles to be renounced. For Your Majesty's knowledge, Queen Elsa is undergoing a very different quarantine from other infectees.
As Her Majesty is "special," she has not responded consistently or normally to the treatment plan, but she is fairing. Her brush with a sickling occurred when a child was found with gashes in the backwaters of Hordaland. By use of her hands, Her Majesty attempted a cryotherapeutic spell on the girl. Hordaland orphans were immediately seized and she quarantined after Her Majesty's spell backfired on her rather violently. This child was said to have come from our capital's port town, so the fault is mine. Since Princess Anna and her consort are scavenging for a "classified-but-totally-harmless" solution behind Arendelle's woods, we estimate that Her Majesty will be hale in December at the very least.
And here I end with this much added for your content:
It is mostly true that today Arendelle's citizens stand free from the Bovi Fever. When this day came, I was instructed by Her Majesty to release four hundred carrier birds with 2.5oz eastern inoculations from our closed public centers. We unleashed the first flock on October 3rd. Your Majesty's personal panacea should've been among them. Arendelle's food, supplies, and protective body gear will come to Corona's port city after those antidotes have relieved the kingdom's islanders. Queen Elsa advises you to thenceforth:
1) Keep recovered infectees quarantined for one month.
2) Expel all traditions of cleaning, sewing, and clothing the infected corpses of loved ones before burying in order to limit exposure.
3) Dispose of all contaminated objects and sterilize all medical instruments. Do not continue to reuse them. The ague will dwell on stethoscopes, clothing, bedding, and any other fomites holding blood, urine, milk, feces, or reproductive fluids for ten hours.
Queen Elsa also wanted you to know that: "I'm not going to go back on my promise. That wouldn't just make me out to be a liar and a hypocrite. It would also cause everything we promised Rapunzel, Isolde, and each other to go to rack and ruin."
If Prince Aloysius were ever to receive an unswayable appetency of that nature, he may actually have a chance outside of his own sappy swevens.
IV of October, 1847
About "Kiribati/Kiribas." The real world territory is pronounced "Kiribas" even though it is spelled, "Kiribati." In here, "Kiribati" is pronounced "Kiribati," and the people are called "Kiribas." Kiribati Isles is a fictional place/culture based on the former, just as Arendelle is based on Arendel, but it is not actually such.
Chapter 14: ༺☀To the Right Honorable (Feb. 1st)☀༻
Dear Prime Minister,
I must ask His Excellency to please accept a passel of apologies for this long overdue gesture of reciprocation. I made a late recovery in December and couldn't use the pigeon post to get my delivery overseas. Corona's postal service is closed during winter, and in a nutshell, I was left with no way of contacting Her Majesty's secretary because of the embargo your parliament enacted against my country. Leastwise, my misfortunes have been partly resolved by the Storting's offshore amendment to the embargo's exportation clause last December. By reason of continental press releases remaining inaccessible to Corona this season, the amendment was unheralded, but the surprise shipments from Arendelle have steadily reintroduced nutrients and hope to my capital since January 26th, so we aren't thankless. I took the initiative of asking one captain to return this letter on his way home.
I, as the affine of your queen, am grateful to Your Excellency for taking the time out of your day to inform me about her well-being after five long months of exile. Choice words such as "intense passion, love," and "affection" towards Her Majesty utterly misapply to me, but your interior statement was much appreciated. Alas, the closing of your letter didn't necessarily round things off or add to my contentment. His Excellency neglected sharing Her Majesty's status, to what procedures she was exposed, in which ways the ague negated inoculations, and what type of special treatment she forewent as a side effect. With no disrespect to the keepers of Her Majesty's throne, I would like to speak with Princess Anna to receive the closure that I am owed.
Above that, Your Excellency has not written to me about the queen's recuperation since October. Corona isn't getting extralocal news in general, so I have no idea what shape she's in or out. If Her Majesty is within reach, please tell her this:
"I didn't want you to put yourself in the line of fire, but I don't plan on sitting around while the rest of the world watches it happen."
On the brightest key, Your Excellency's postal coverage on the Bovi Fever has helped me find a sanitary way to incorporate Arendelle's approach into our own healthcare system. Not all of the birds you sent crossed the border, but the people who needed those deliveries got them. I believe this was around the week that Corona's Guardian of the Crown sent a messenger bird to the Storting about the capital's victory against the Bovi Fever. I was in quarantine, so there isn't much I can personally recount, but I'll never forget the looks I saw on everyone's faces from my windowsill.
I have both you and Her Majesty to thank for that. I also know that I have a new bounty on my head and a large sum to fork over for those lost infants and mothers in Arendelle, and I will pay it.
I'm paying for it with my night terrors.
I'm going to have to close my letter here. My body isn't in the greatest condition to be adding a longer message to this heart-to-heart duologue. But lastly, I will expatiate on the articles published by the likes of trifling quidnuncs such as journalist J. Abelard. My council has petitioned against J. to deflate his hot-air balloon and find a happy place, but we can't legally keep anyone from their Free Speech if that's what you're asking us to do. J. Abelard is one (potentially border-hopping) newshawk out of twenty; by my experience, I can attest to his mouth not being the head voice of all Coronians, just as I don't believe Deputy Kolbein Stoltenberg speaks for all of Arendelle.
And here is where I will end my letter with this much to be confessed:
I am grateful for Her Majesty. A measuring tape can't even measure the extent of what I feel. I'm sure she's been a queen worth waiting for. Please tell her that as many times as you can.
I of February, 1848
P.S. (I would have expected an ordinary ambassador or private secretary to substitute Queen Elsa's ink with theirs, so I'm assuming His Excellency and Her Majesty are close enough to engage in that type of dialogue.^)
Chapter 15: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Mar. 1st)❄༻
Heavens, I don't even know where to start. .. . I haven't stopped shaking since October because I thought I had lost you. I forgot what it felt like to actually smile at something good in my life until Captain Brøgger came to my bedside with your letter. I'm so thankful that you're still alive, Eugene. I've
ached wanted so badly to write to you and beg you to evacuate to Arendelle if you didn't hate me already for being this useless. ... .
I tried to set things up to where I could get back to you with the captain's help, but getting my letter into Corona almost cost him more than he could risk. Arendelle's messengers are banned from carrying epistles from or into Corona until eighty-percent of your capital's population is free of the Bovi Fever. The biggest problem with this policy (aside from existing) is the unavailability of the pigeon post in winter, which means you and I won't be able to contact each other every winter from here on out. If the pigeon post becomes a part of the ban this year, thenwe won't have any access to each other at all. To add another slap in the face, I have and currently am being subjected to the Storting's version of your, "Care of King During Illness Act."
On top of everything else, I took your spring letter to heart — the one about me not feeling accessible to you all the time. You were right. I was being hypocritical. If I have your permission "to be real" right now, then I have to say that I can't allow myself to be cut off from you again. Call it intense passion, desperation, or whatever else you want to call it, but I sent a carrier the Storting wouldn't whine about — someone small and elusive enough to avoid being seen by your people.
You probably weren't any less afraid than they would've been when you first saw him, but I still hope he didn't frighten you enough to make you flatten him with a broom. If my message isn't too crumpled up for you to read, then I want you to pay attention to what I'm about to tell you. The letter you wrote on May 25th didn't find my bedside until October 2nd because of all that's been happening. For more than forty days, one of the only things I could think about was, "When will I hear from you again?" After October's horror story, I was left crying into my pillow, "Will I ever hear from you again?"
And I couldn't handle that. I won't accept that. I can't keep up with what lies ahead if I go on like this, so I want you to give me some peace of mind by leaving Corona with Isolde this month. Recovering from the ague has been hard for me because I know neither one of you are by my side. I know it's been even harder for you to be there all alone without any support from us; Anna has been writing in secret, but from the sounds of it, her letters haven't been reaching you.
I felt like my recovery period was a waste of time that could've been spent on finding some other way to help you when you needed me the most. The Storting's ban still extends to me until they can agree on ditching their so-called protection policies, which probably won't happen for another year or so. In Pabbie's opinion, I'm not immune to flares of the Bovi Fever if it still persists in Hohendorf's overrun quarantines, and I'm sensitive to contagions in ways that others aren't. He says that if I come to blows with it again, then I'll end up hurting myself and everyone else. That's why I need you and Isolde to come to me.
You may have already seen Arendelle's sailors lower packages into Corona's rowboats instead of physically docking their ships because of the North's propaganda. You and I both know we could get this under control together if Arendelle's men and physicians were there, so I'm still trying to make that happen. I asked the Storting to allow a ship to come get you last October, but they refused because you were infected. Today, one will be coming to bring you and your daughter to Arendelle — to Anna. After that, we'll think of something — anything — but I don't want you and your daughter to stay in that environment.
I have a feeling you'll fight me on this, but I hope you understand that Corona needs their king to stay alive in order for him to make changes. Being trapped with them won't help. And please stop — you don't owe me or Baldor a "passel of apologies." You don't owe the Storting a used piece of toilet wipers and you know it, so cut that out right now. You have more of a right to be angry at me for swearing by promises I didn't keep.
The entire continent owes you an apology. I owe you an apology; your country, your daughter, Rapunzel, Aunt Arianna, Uncle Frederic . . . the list is never-ending. In the same breath, I'm sick of saying "sorry" in situations where it doesn't do anything for the lives that were lost. To think most of this was "helped" by Arendelle's government policy, ally abandonment, international fear, overseas disgust, and scheming princes who want people to die is making me question what I'm doing at the center of it. I knew horrible things happened in the world, but I didn't know the world would just stand by and watch while they happened; I feel lost between knowing the harsh reality and believing the happy ending I want to secure for everyone is a possibility, not a dream.
This travel ban takes you further away from me, but it hasn't taken away my determination. Although I have failed you as a relative, the day when our limitations disappear will be the day Corona's circumstances change for the better. I promise you that your night terrors won't go on for much longer, Eugene. The real recovery will begin when you're here with us. All of us.
I of March, 1848
P.S. When I got sick, I had a hard time with my powers for nine months. I wasn't contagious or dangerous. I was just a danger to myself. Pabbie helped, but things aren't completely back to normal even with his instructions. If it's okay with you, that's all I'd like to share on paper. I'd feel more comfortable talking about it once we're finally face-to-face.
Boy, have I been waiting to get a letter like this. Uncut (well, sort of), unrehearsed, and unabashed. I got all fuzzy inside for a minute or two of savoring martyr-like passages and heartfelt confessions combined with lukewarm sass. Paragraph nine especially cheered me up after the second scolding. Where've you been hiding all this time?
No, but really — all (regrettably inappropriate) jokes aside — thank you. I needed it. This, I mean. I was scared, too. For both of us, actually. I was completely terrified; you see, you weren't the only one living in fear and guilt for ten months.
I was doing everything in my power to hide my anxiety from the Prime Minister (who seemed to want a love confession out of me any way he could get it), but off-page, I was a mess. You don't send a letter like that to someone and not include every detail "entrusted" to you. The imagination can conjure up all sorts of nightmares in the meantime, and I've had enough of those. Your latest letter might not give me the closure I needed, but getting a response from you personally does wonders.
To make a long story short, I'm glad you're alright, Elsa. I really am. I can't even tell you how much, because I thought I had killed you. I thought, "my wife's cousin is about to die because of me." That's when I realized that I'm the one who's supposed to be protecting her family, not the other way around.
Last year, I swore I wouldn't pile my duties onto your crown, but Corona was left in the dark over what really felt like my name, and that has been a bitter pill to swallow all by myself. I couldn't tell if I had been permanently stopped from ever contacting you again because of it, if my first carrier pigeon didn't make it, if the Storting codified a second ban, or if you and Anna were even alive anymore. Then September "happened," and sitting in the dark with four walls around me just became a part of my life....or what's left of it, anyway.. .
Tonight, I'm not in that head space, and I most certainly don't want you to be. I do, can, and will promise you that I won't be dying from any fever, famine, or tabloid, so don't you worry about me, Little Lady. This mangy old O'Malley the Alley Cat still has seven lives left. And, if it's not too much to ask, he would also like you to tell him whatever it is you need from him. That is, if you could ever need anything from him; it's been starting to read like you're the knight in shining armor in this story, not him.
...And he should probably tell you that he did sweep the floor with that abominable snowman you sent the second it came hopping into his study like a leprechaun on opium. Bopped him on the head, locked the door, and haven't looked back since. I literally have no idea where the bugger went, but I know he's still in there somewhere, so I've sort of been sleeping with the chair against the door. I'm not trying to be picky or anything, but is there possibly a less creepy spy we could use? At least one without a serial killer grin on its face? (I highly applaud you for breaking the rules to reach me, though; your "way" of doing it was simultaneously scary and refreshingly creative)
Before I get too sidetracked, I know I mainly have to explain why your ship came back to Arendelle without us on it. That should've been the first thing I talked about, but my thoughts and feelings are terribly out of order tonight. By now, Captain Haugen should've told you what I asked him to in so many short, grumbled words, but I need to elaborate on what he might've left out. I did heed your warning about banned messengers, just know that a sailor named Fredmund volunteered to get this letter to you if I wrote it in time. Because we're short on that, I'm just as desperate as you are to take any opportunity that comes my way.
So here it is with a head note:
I'm not resisting your order, but there are two obstacles that I wish we could've discussed before we got into the tight conundrum we're in now:
1) Isolde can't make a 20+ hour trip to Arendelle by sea. My daughter is a year old, and she still needs accommodations that a winter sail can't ensure. At the very worst, she could die. Here in Corona, she has a safety net. Our citizens are struggling, but Isolde and I are the most fed and protected people in the kingdom. She won't be riding out onto the Golden Bridge to stop an altercation between guards and orphans like her father did; she can't leave the palace until the outbreak ends.
2) In the event that I have no choice but to send Isolde to Arendelle, I would essentially choose to live in Corona. Here's where I'm going to ask you to try and put yourself in my shoes by standing where I'm standing. If I leave the people of Corona at the height of blight, then they'll take my departure as abandonment.
I'll take that as abandonment. As you've already acknowledged, abandoning someone is the worst crime you could ever commit when they need your presence like they need a reason to live. Rapunzel's father once told me that a king's job is to "stand in the storm with his people."
Isolde doesn't have to, but I do. And unless I do, their spirits will be broken beyond all repair, and they'll feel and be even more alone than ever before. I can't let that happen.
The kid in me already knows what that feels like. I'll basically be the king everyone expected me to be, which is a runaway rogue.
. .. .I'm truly horrified by what I just said as well as my decision to go through with it, but a different choice might haunt me more than I already have been, so there's no sleeping on it. I know those hauntings won't stop at Arendelle.
The number of faces I'm seeing at night will only grow. I hope you can find it in your heart to respect my decision and understand my position as the wise woman you are. And for what it's worth, you're not as "hateable" as you keep telling yourself you should be. Why you think you should be beats me, but I'm here to tell you that you're not, unfortunately — so please get that thought out of your mind. If we're being totally honest here, I'm the one who's disposal.
I keep thinking it's my fault that the press used you as their chew toy over what I should be capable of fixing. The fact that you could've died last year makes me feel guiltier. .. .
I truly don't want to cause you anymore physical, mental, or emotional harm, Elsa, but you absolutely could've walked away from this if you absolutely had to. When you got sick, you absolutely should've. Apparently, you absolutely won't, and that's as admirable as it is troubling for me to lie down with. I don't know how much more you can do for us, but . . . I really do feel grateful for what you tried to do and did do even when things were getting worse for you where you are. I just wish you didn't feel this unhealthy need to sacrifice yourself.
Someday, I'll be in the position to make up everything to you and Arendelle. I can promise you that. I just don't know when or how. It would feel so completely amazing to say that this letter to you won't be my last, or how positively sure I am that this is just another pothole in a never-ending road of setbacks. But I can't. And that's...
Incredibly hard to soak in.
III of March, 1848
P.S. I just have one more concern:
Are you officially engaged to him or not?
The snowgie idea sprouted from user @mhso501.
Chapter 17: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Mar. 4th)❄༻
What is it going to take for me to convince you that you belong in Arendelle? Your decision to stay is noble and unselfish, but it's also dangerous and near-sighted. What's going on between your port city and your municipalities is unpredictable. You can come back to Corona as many times as you want, but you can't live there while its recovery is still hanging on a thread. By the time things get worse, it'll be too late. Captain Haugen won't return when another flare up claims the higher ground.
I cherish your compassion, but what I need from you is your cooperation. This may have been the only chance we had and you turned it down. I understand why you're afraid, but I could try to make a sail less chancy next year if you would just tell me what you needed. I feel like you're not telling me something on purpose. You need to be open and honest so that you and I can work together to accommodate Isolde's special needs in the future.
For the record, I am standing where you're standing. It's on the end of a plank, isn't it? The one you think it's your duty to stand on, but you don't have to jump off to prove your loyalty. This is difficult for you, and I can see that. Now think about how difficult it will be for your entire kingdom to lose a king and a father if something did happen to you again; how much more alone would they be?
Also, would you mind telling me why on Earth you locked my snowman in your study? I figured that the broom-bopping would happen, but I didn't think you'd actually attack him. Blizzard isn't going to eat you alive, for crying out loud. You probably scared the poor thing half to death way more than he scared you. He's just a newborn snowgie, after all, and if you could, I would appreciate it if you went back in there to check on him.
Blizzard's personal flurry won't last him more than three months. After two, the homing spell that I put on him will go away, and he'll be apt to run around making one big mess everywhere he goes. Try to set out a plate of sweets before opening the windows to let him out in April. He should return to Captain Brøgger's cargo ship all by himself. And please don't lock up the snowgie who's delivering this message; he can say enough words to start fussing at you.
Thank you for what you said earlier. I am happy that you feel the way you do, but if I could meet you halfway on that, you aren't disposable. I haven't seen you be a "useless king-replacement" or a "crown-snatcher" (which you had ample opportunity to be after my uncle passed). My choices and Arendelle's predicaments aren't your fault; you couldn't snuff out a virus that you knew nothing about. Shady tabloids from northern princes, whose timing couldn't be more cruel, shouldn't stifle human compassion just because of that.
Your past is up for another one of my fact-finding missions, but you've made genuine efforts for Corona, and those efforts have so far shown me a caring man. Sometimes we don't always get it right the first time, especially when it actually is our first time reigning with a national crisis, but from where I'm standing, you look like you have the heart of a king. I can't really say I knew him all that well, but based on what my mother told me, my uncle was a lot like you in his youth. Hardheaded and bighearted. (I hope I'm not being too "honest" by saying that) He wouldn't have chosen you to marry my cousin otherwise.
And yes, actually. I am officially engaged to Prince Aloysius, but I don't plan on staying that way. He's a misogynist, among other things. He jealously thinks you're my second suitor even though such a drivel couldn't be further from the truth. My prime minister feels the same way, but if I wasn't engaged, what other escape hatch are you offering me?
My situation isn't completely hopeless, Eugene. Through the engagement, I have more access to the homework I wanted to do on Hans and his brothers. If I can gather enough physical evidence to prove there's a separate scandal going on in the Southern Isles like I think there is, then I can break the engagement and expose Prince Aloysius to the Storting for what he is. I'm very confident about that. It turns out that sometimes making one temporary trade-off can open more doors than you ever thought possible.
I hate to say that I learned that from Prince Hans.
Think things through before you decide to reject my own offer again.
IV of March, 1848
Chapter 18: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Apr. 1st)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
I've already made up my mind about what I have to do. I'm not asking you to respect it, I'm telling you to. I have people telling me what to do on a daily basis, but my obligations aren't up for debate; the decision was finalized publicly in the middle of a riot against my departure to Arendelle last month. You can't really think the Storting or Arendelle's government would let me leave Arendelle for any trips to Corona under that ban that they're so proud of. Their policies won't spare me if they won't even allow Your Majesty or Your Highness to come for me personally.
What Isolde needs is what you can't provide: endurance. A successful evacuation to Arendelle by (potentially stormy) sea for an immunocompromised one year old hangs entirely on blind luck. It's going to have to be a last resort because of that, and if Captain Haugen won't do it, then I will. Corona isn't ideal for her, and I may not have protected thousands to the best of my ability, but I know I can protect my own daughter on my own soil better than I can on your waters. I'm sorry, but that's my final answer.
You say "when" like it's not an "if." Rectification isn't nonexistent. We are finding our equilibrium; we are making slow strides. I won't demand anything less this spring and I hope you won't entertain the thought of less being an option. Have some faith in us.
So now this "Blizzard" the "snowgie" is a critter whom I scared half to death. That's the statement of the year. Whatever you say, Your Majesty. One plate of sugar coming right up. I'll have that window open in a jiffy, and then he'll be out of my hair for good.
Oh, I concur. His frozen nerves were probably way more shot than mine were upon first introduction. I should've stopped to give the poor guy CPR at least once or twice, right? Your second "snowgie" wasn't half-bad, however. He left the sparkling message on my desk and hit the road (or dock) that same night.
Smart little guy. If we can have an invisible relationship, then I'll be less against having your snow children around, but why exactly are they called snowgies, anyway? Because that sure sounds a heck of a lot like "loogie," which is rather gross to think about. These things aren't your loogies, are they? Please tell me they aren't.
It's an honor to be compared to my father-in-law. Thank you. However, I'm assuming that Hans's 'jail-written' letter to the tabloids stuck with you in some way if you're still hiring a fact-finder. Nevertheless, please do whatever you please. I won't say anymore on the subject.
After what hit you and Arendelle, I'm still obviously indentured to you and your kingdom whether I want to be or not. With that said, I wasn't thinking about a platonic marriage between you and I ― not now and not ever. I was going to bring up Isolde. If Princess Anna's future children are illegitimate because of morganatic laws, and if you don't end up having a baby before your reign ends, then that leaves space for Isolde to fill in the gaps. Granted, timing and parliaments are everything, too.
By the same token, if she's already Queen Regnant of Corona after Anna's reign, then that would call for a Union of the Crowns, but who knows if Arendelle would be willing to board that. If Anna or you hypothetically outlive her (and I don't want to picture either scenario), then none of it will be possible. If she's betrothed to a Crown Prince, which might be the most likely war to break out between my council and I, then that again leaves you with no Izzy. Other things could get in the way, too . . .
There's surely a lot that could tip the scales to where I can understand why the Storting is pushing for a firstborn. It equals security. I also feel like they want a direct heir from you, not Rapunzel. Otherwise, Isolde's legitimacy would've been recognized a long time ago, and your councilors wouldn't have forced you to find a trade partner to wed. It seems like, more than anything, they also want you to marry for the benefits Arendelle would receive from a marriage of state.
I guess the only solution to keeping princes off you and betrothals off her would be marrying me.
. . .
Okay, let's back up here. These are all just really extreme cases with really extreme examples that I probably shouldn't have spent two paragraphs babbling about. They're not drawbridges I'm throwing open to your bailey. (Please don't take that all the way left) I might've even completely missed something, so we're going to leave that last part at the moat. I was just adding things up in my head as I went down the list of things to sort of consider.
Let's just forget the above for right now. What's this dirt you have on Prince Aloysius and the Southern Isles? I'm painfully eager to know if what I already tried to tell you before has finally gotten through to you, because there's more:
Remember when I implied letters ago that animal diseases didn't "come" from Corona, but foreign ships with animal diseases? Farmers breed livestock with "bovidae and bovine" from other countries to create hybrids. One of those geographically closer countries would be the Southern Isles. If I had it my way, we would've cut that rope loose eons ago — but local merchants and government officials have ordered most of Corona's goods from that closer country for generations despite their background together; we were the kingdom's oppressors before the Age of Illumination, remember? After half of your inoculations were wheelbarrowed into Gustrow, I had March farmers interrogated about which livestock started showing Bovi Fever signs first. Guess.
Were Ragnar's sailors incubating the sickness? Probably not, because the Southern Isles has clearly been outbreak-free since their return. Have you heard of an outbreak there after February? Because I haven't, so this leads me to think that they might've known those livestock were sick, took the necessary measures to keep themselves from getting sick, and brought them way over here to dispose of the virus by dumping it onto us.
Am I just being paranoid? Absolutely not. Wouldn't you think everything I've gone through is enough to make me believe King Kasimir, Prince Hans, and all the rest have had starring roles in Corona's desecration? You can't convince me that all of those brothers — not just one or two — don't want me dead, and if you haven't 98% came to that conclusion, then I don't know how you and I are going to get past this. I know the pattern went like this:
1) The poisoning didn't work, so a pseudo-plague might!
2) Then we'll tar and feather his name up just a bit to make Corona's allies turn their backs on them. There's no need for an invasion if the world lets their body count pile up, right? We'll just colonize Corona after everyone is dead!
And now Prince Aloysius thinks I want you to sleep with you. What seed will he plant to make the public or the Storting believe you're having an "on paper" affair with your cousin's widower? How far will they go? Oh, I know: the moon!
I hope everything I just wrote adds something to your research, Your Majesty. I really do, because I don't know how much longer I can sit around marooned on my own island while you're defending and drinking wine with any of them, let alone rubbing noses with the third lowest of them all.
. . .. . .. ... . . . ... . . . .... . .. .
Chapter 19: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Jun. 1st)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
I would like to express my regrets for the abrasive and accusatory tone in my last letter. I was completely out of line. In order for us to communicate effectively, we have to feel comfortable with each other, and I think my last letter upset the comfort level that we were building. Getting angry isn't a default trait in my character, so I'm ashamed about the way I said what I said. Most of all, I didn't talk to you the way a man should talk to a woman.
I had let my personal problems marinate for the first time since my wife transitioned and wounded up flaring up at you and what you "couldn't" or "didn't do" for Corona without saying that directly. Things went from passive-aggressive to aggressive as I made inexplicit ultimatums that were not mine to make, executed poor delivery to get my point across, turned your concerns into combative commands, and wrote assumptions about where your head was at because of last year. Those inroads were audaciously inappropriate, patronizing, mean-spirited, and lacked the respect that you deserve. Therefore, I genuinely apologize for the way I came at you; that isn't who I am.
I really do understand that you're caught between the hammer and the anvil with Corona, Arendelle, Norrlind, and the Southern Isles. You're a family member who's just trying to be a family member, but also a queen who has to be a queen. Corona wants to thank you for being one to ours. A lot more of Arendelle's ships - some with regular fishermen - have been sailing in with salted cod fish, pork, mutton, ptarmigan, Jarlsberg cheese, vegetables (Corona's main intake), nutrition supplements, and the last of your inoculations, so I know you did or said something to make all of that happen for us. Everyone unconditionally cherishes and honors your unconditional commitment with everything in their hearts.
My goal with you is to do whatever it takes to stay on the same page before our chapter together ends with a dotted line. I value the resourceful dynamic we've built and thoroughly believe that our partnership can find other ventures to feed Arendelle-Corona relations with. But whatever Her Majesty plans on doing with Prince Aloysius, please make sure that you do it carefully, and before Prince Hans is released this year if he hasn't been already. Please.
I of June, 1848
P.S. Will Princess Anna accept a late birthday present?
Chapter 20: ༺☀Dear Elsa (July 1st)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
. . . How are you, exactly? What's happened since my last letter? What became of Hans and Aloysius? I’m asking because Corona doesn't receive news about your side of the continent. We’ve lost touch with the real world; even the world we’re in doesn’t feel real anymore.
Or maybe I'm the one who's lost touch.
I honestly resisted against sitting here and writing to you tonight, but I need you.
. . . Alrighty then, so that totally created the wrong vibe. Let me put the bottle down and sip on some water. Allow me to start over. What I meant to say was:
I know what you’re thinking. Well, technically I don’t know what you’re thinking, which is why I’m biting my nails to begin with, but I have an idea of what you’re thinking, and I just wanna know what it is that I can do to get you and I back on the right track. I know this sounds like I’m begging you for a response, but I am begging you for a response. Even four words would do, because you left cliffhangers that you wouldn't have left if our alliance was in good standing, such as what you were planning on doing with Prince Aloysius. When it comes to that guy, my concerns are entirely justified.
Since so much time has passed between then and now, you're probably married to him, carrying his child, or in a predicament that’s way worse than those two for all I know. It’s not your duty to keep me updated on the status of your marriage (or engagement), but I asked Constantine about Aloysius, and he told me everything that I was in absolutely no condition to hear. I don't know if you know this pervert's track record, but his appetite for women isn't something you should be subjecting yourself to in exchange for an insider's scoop. Pathologically, unprincipled rakes aren't just misogynistic, they're possessive. Beautiful women are looked at as sexual property to the point where their jealousy takes on a whole 'nother personality of its own.
If Prince Aloysius has ever given you any reason to believe that he sees me as his rival, then I feel like maybe he’s already done something to get in the way of you communicating with me. I doubt he's stupid enough to physically make that happen, but schemes behind the scenes, like stopping carrier pigeons from getting through, are right up his alley. I can't afford a disconnection, a distraction, or an interference to come between us. I'd rather believe that you were choosing to not reply to me because I deeply hurt you.
Millions of catastrophes can prevent someone from writing back or getting their pigeon across the border, obviously. I'm just worried about which of the millions it is, because right now I desperately need
you to ask you for your help. You see, Corona is getting rockier financially. Rugen isn't getting worse and it isn't getting better, and I'm at a loss for what to do. The council thinks we should use tax revenues to build walls around Rugen and make "security measures easier."
Constantine is also pressuring me with his own post-famine succession plans, and as of today, Rapunzel's birthday is just seventeen sunsets away...
It's enough to make a sane man go six feet under.
Telling you all of this won't change the circumstances, but if I could just use you as my sounding board, then that would help me a lot. I just need your hand. "Trade 'retrenchment'" had its advantages before the Bovi Fever; cutting down high expenses in a way that won't make everything else go to pieces is trickier.
I of July, 1848
Worrying about you exactly the right amount,
P.S. I settled with sending Anna a trinket instead of homemade sweets. We still have Arendelle’s pigeons in postal lofts, so I had it delivered in the middle of June. I hope she enjoyed it if she got it.
Chapter 21: ༺☀Dear Elsa (July 18th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
Please write back to me so I'll know that you and Anna are alright; I didn't get a single letter on Rapunzel's birthday. I was waiting on you to offer some wise advice that would convince me to show my face in Corona that morning. I thought the kingdom was going to make it a day for mourning instead of a day for celebration. I thought it was going to be impossible for me to get up. I'm not going to say it wasn't, because I didn't plan on opening my bedroom doors at all.
But then I did.
And I'm so glad that I did...
I barely got through my opening speech, but I felt her small, warm fingers slipping between mine and holding on tight as I croaked out every word I could. I haven't felt her sunshine in so long that I almost broke down. The best part is that she didn't leave my side this time. She stayed the whole day and watched us relive her. Watched the island perform stage reenactments of the Tangled Tales of Rapunzel before placing gifts in front of her portrait with her parents.
She even saw the life-sized cravings that were made, and the tributes that were given — she saw everything you could imagine that would make it a genuine celebration of who she was that day — and I actually managed to smile through half of it. I cried through all of it, but I smiled, too. And she smiled back. Our little us also got to meet her. Maybe not in the way that I or Rapunzel would have wanted her to, but in a way that she needed, and it was everything that I needed to remember why I can't back down to neither the Southern Isles nor the weight of the crown I'm wearing.
I showed our daughter Rapunzel's paintings at sunset, and she picked up a paintbrush for the first time. She tried to use my face as her first canvas, though — so we definitely had to settle for chalk. With a little help from Rapunzel herself, what made the end of the day bearable was Isolde drawing a small purple flower right next to her mother's in our bedroom. Now she can't stop making them in her own room. I tried to give her a piece of vellum to draw on, but she prefers the floor.
Like mother, like daughter. It thankfully hasn't been "like father, like daughter" in reverse. The kingdom would probably say the same thing. Today truly feels like it brought Corona together despite our numbers. Rapunzel always had a way of putting things into perspective for people no matter what they were going through or how divided they were; Izzy does, too.
I could really feel everyone giving Isolde the same love they gave baby Rapunzel when she released that first lantern into the sky. When the island and Rugen released theirs, we stood in that moment as one. Everything isn't magically "all better" on the outside or the inside, but at least for one day, we shared magic together. Remembering the person we loved made all of us feel like we had a reason to live.
But I still want my wife back..
I'm just sorry you and Anna aren't here to share her with us.
XVIII of July, 1848
If you're reading this, then I know that Blizzard showed you what to do with your candlestick. I hate that I didn't stumble on this spell ages ago, but I didn't have time to ask Grandpabbie for his help, and this magic berry ink won't last me more than two or three letters. Make sure you're alone before you unroll the other pages. After you've read all of them, destroy them.
My Beloved Cousin,
I'm so sorry for not writing back to you sooner, Eugene. I've been . . .
secluded in a tight spot lately. Truth be told, I think I put too many irons in the fire and lost my hold on most of them, but I've been listening to your voice on these papers, and what I hear is a very brave man. You made it through Rapunzel's whole birthday without running back to your room and slamming the door on anyone; you felt her sunshine because you withstood the rain. It took me a year to stay for the memorials that Arendelle would have for my parents without running back to my room to crumble into Anna's arms at the very end, so I'm the type of person who would've told you to come out once you were ready; you found out on your own that you were, and that alone is something to pride yourself on.
I know how much you want your wife back. Anna and I want our cousin back. But if you felt her back there, then you'll feel her always, and so will your precious little girl. What you did for Isolde was powerful. You showed her what it meant to not let fear and pain stop you from feeling love and happiness again by walking out of that bedroom and reopening your heart to Rapunzel's home.
While we're on the subject of open doors, I would never want you to think that I'd shut you out or slam my door because you did something wrong. I was
crushed angry in the beginning, but I processed your feelings instead of dwelling on mine, which took a lot more time than it should have. I read everything you had to say in April and threw away everything I had to say in return. I spent my mornings trying to get over our different views on what should have been done, but I couldn't express myself with understanding. If I wasn't feeling helpless last March, I was feeling lost and hysterical that April, so my state of mind added to the storm.
But despite our disagreements, friction would never make me go "MIA" (have I gotten that right?) in the middle of a conversation that wasn't about 'how you said what to me' or how 'I' felt about it, so you were right all along. Things like that are completely unimportant to me. Stupidly, I decided it would be better for both of us if I gave you the closure you wanted, not just paragraphs on my thoughts about your decision. At the time, it just 'felt' like it made more sense to actually address your concerns about Hans and his brothers by doing the homework I said I would. I had hoped to get back to you about these decisions to keep you from worrying, but it's been one thing after another with Prince Aloysius since April.
Fomite fears have been removed from the ban as long as all parties use these sticky gloves that were invented by the West recently, but most of our carrier pigeons weren't reaching their destinations for three months. I'd later learn that these bizarre incidents had to do with Prince Aloysius hiring falconers to slaughter the birds that were crossing his kingdom's borders. The nominee I first spoke about using last year fell ill on the dot, which I'd also end up linking to Prince Aloysius. I know this outcome probably looked obvious to you from the start, but I thought Anna, Kristoff, and myself did everything in our capacity to prepare ourselves for boomerangs by staying one step ahead. These roadblocks didn't break our wheels until after I had completed the task I spoke to you about.
The homework I finished and the payoff I was looking for are still unraveling, but everything has almost come to a head. I just have to wait a little while to feel
safe secure enough to tell you everything that's happened between Prince Aloysius and I. Because there could be hired muscles in my midst, I already put a lot on the line by asking Fredmund to babysit Blizzard in his quarters of Captain Brøgger's ship. I'll also try to discuss the matter of Isolde and succession as soon as I can. Right now, I have to warn you about what you've been blindsided by:
The letter you mailed on April 1st got to my study later than usual; the last page came on time, but my private secretary didn't find the first page until two days later. What you mailed out on June 1st and July 1st got to me on July 17th. On that same day, copies of pages from all three letters were published in a Southern Isles newspaper that's been circulating everywhere. The report, as I know you've already guessed, tried to make it look like you were proposing to me and confessing your jealousy towards Prince Aloysius. As days go by, foreign sojourners dish out more lies that aren't just about our "raunchy" relationship "probably starting while you were married," but my moralless conscience and your griefless one. Now people won't stop crucifying us; there's even repulsively graphic art of "our relations" being printed in the Southern Isles.
This month has been cruel to both of us without you knowing anything about it. Though on the contrary, you're the one who actually saw it coming before I could stop it. I took to the public dais on more than one occasion to discredit the newsreels and set the record straight, hoping to turn their investments toward the Bovi Fever in Corona. My press conferences couldn't convince everyone of our innocent intentions, but I reached who was willing to listen. I don't think you'd believe me all that much if I told you my "sentimental clarifications" persuaded an entire booth of slanderers to change tune.
People now say that we should be together because I'm the, "only option Queen Rapunzel would lovingly approve of," and "Queen Elsa's efforts deserve to be rewarded by King Eugene's indentured servitude." I bet you're thinking all of this sounds like one big nightmare, and it is. I feel violated. The only good news is that the prince's meddling left bread crumb trails at my study door. It's just that uncovering tangible evidence of his entanglement has been easier said than done.
I did have the now incarcerated journalist who made the first article interrogated to see if he could help me. He said the pages of June 1st and July 1st that I received were the only ones he saw, while the first page of April 1st was all he touched of that delivery. I had determined that one of my private secretary's assistants was his supplier after the copies were published, but I was positive that the puppeteer who threatened him was Aloysius. He was reluctant to admit that he had a handler in all of this, but I felt it was because he was more afraid of what Aloysius would do to him more than anything. He claimed that he chose to not send the last page of April 1st to the papers because he didn't want to bring you "an even hotter hell" by exposing your accusations against the Southern Isles.
Aloysius hasn't left any trails that would suggest he read the last page of April 1st. At the most, you'd think he would've retaliated against me after your mentions of "what I'm planning to do" with him, but he interpreted that accusation differently. He hasn't just convinced himself that you're my lustful admirer, Eugene. His possessiveness has reached the toxic levels you warned me about. By that, I mean he thinks you were telling me to leave him for you.
It sounds unbelievable on paper, but if you saw what our relationship had turned into over the months, you'd say it sounded just right. I don't really know if I've created a genuinely lovesick fiance by insincerely bonding with him or playing chess with a pseudo-Hans, but I won't be turning my back on him for a second. After today, the only person Blizzard will be bringing your letters to is me. This is where I have to leave you again for a little while, Eugene. I don't want to, but I'm out of time.
I am happy that you, Isolde, and Corona shared such an unforgettable adventure on Rapunzel's birthday. I wish we could've shared it with you, too. Just to let you know: I felt her, too. We'll always feel her.
In closing, I put together a volunteer plan for Corona that you'll benefit from. It's my way of saying I haven't lost faith in Corona at all. If you would be so kind, please wait for me to send you another letter and better line of communication before you try to smuggle a reply. In the meantime, don't be concerned about us. We really are and really will be fine, and so will you.
XXIX of July, 1848
P.S. Anna didn't get your trinket, but neither of us would be opposed to homemade sweets next year.
That one moment when a reviewer renames Prince Aloysius, "Prince Asshole." Adore it.
How is Corona fairing? I've been thinking about you every hour for the past couple of weeks, wondering if my volunteer project did you any good. I'd greatly appreciate it if you would let me know how it all turned out after all of this sneaking around is over and done with; if it made no impact whatsoever, then be honest with me and say that. I can always do more to make the operation better; I'm trying to do more. Petitioning against this travel ban has been even harder than it was before, but I don't plan on backing down or bowing out just like you don't; restrictions are loosening up...just not for me.
I'll be focusing on your proposal about Isolde in another letter because I still have to make the time, but I want you to write back to me after August 30th, which is when things should ease up. Tonight, I'll be sending you a type of logbook that touches on my developments with Prince Aloysius. I'm going to write everything I can as thoroughly as I can, so please bookmark any pages you can't finish:
I spent June in the Southern Isles. Going to the kingdom sounds like a gamble - I'm not denying that, but back then, I was sure that I knew what King Ragnar's A plan was, so I told myself that I had no reason to be afraid. I also had no choice in the matter. Even supposing that I did think the brothers were dumb enough to abandon their first plan for a takeover, the visit was irremissible. I was obligated by vote and protocol to spend a month with my "soon-to-be-husband" in his own kingdom.
Before the trip, I learned from King Kasimir that Prince Hans was quietly released by King Ragnar in January to live in exile on a cay. The idea of him being a sailboat away was...unnerving, to say the least, but interaction would've been impossible, so I took comfort in the thought of him floundering about a secluded island without the freedom to leave. I needed proof, however. I needed to know that King Ragnar wasn't lying. I got my proof when I was rowed there by King Ragnar, King Kasimir, Prince Aloysius, and my convoy.
I don't think I was ready for what I saw once I stepped foot on the cay's labor fields, which didn't run all that differently from the prison farm Hans worked on before his release. King Ragnar's parliament apparently made this program for "special ex-convicts," so Hans and a dozen others make their living off agriculture and quarrying under his aegis. Fed rotten corn for breakfast, lunch, and maybe even dinner, most of them had missing teeth, but all of them had black gums, bloody hands, and thin bodies. Apart from the conditions of the field being unhygienic and unbreathable, I saw signs of young overseers beating old men like slaves whenever they could get away with it. I interjected at one point, which cut our tour short.
Not too long after that, King Kasimir pulled me aside to tell me how impressive King Ragnar and Prince Aloysius thought I was "for a woman." The last thing I wanted to do was impress them. To tell the truth, I would've preferred them to have been upset. I had a hard time tolerating their amusement while I watched Hans and the workers try to make it through the twelve hours that lied ahead of them. King Kasimir didn't look like he wanted to be there, but King Ragnar seemed to be watching the scene play out like it was something to be proud of.
Prince Hans never saw me. I made sure of that, but...if only you could see him for yourself, Eugene. I'd be surprised if he had any strength left in his hand to hold a pen or paper. I'm not saying his incarceration is uncalled for, but I don't know if conditions like these, ones that serve no emotional or psychological rehabilitation, are teaching him the lesson he needs to learn. I don't think torture teaches anyone the lessons they need to learn; it just teaches them nihilism, cruelty, and more mixed messages about what justice means.
King Ragnar asked me about my thoughts on his "reformation" of Hans at dinner. I told him the exact same thing I'm telling you now. He doesn't want an adjusted brother; he wants a soulless puppet. As diplomatically as possible, I added that the repercussions for trying to break Hans will only affect me, you, and anyone else he blames for his new cage. The king was surprisingly respectful of my point of view, but we still disagreed.
I indirectly brought up Hans's public slams against you to explain what I meant. Though I didn't say it outright, I asked questions about Hans's pastimes and what he did in that bothy of his on the cay. He allegedly wrote short prose in the beginning, and yet King Ragnar doesn't know who was sending your scandals to the media outlets. I didn't buy either story, but I had to leave it alone for the afternoon. We talked about my relationship with you for the rest of the evening; Prince Aloysius was a less poised piece of work by that point, but what else is new?
Whether I knew some things about the prince's history or not, your version gives him a lot more credit than he deserves. Perverted as he is, his Achilles Heel is still women. His real fetish, however, is the "unknown." He's fixated on witchcraft novels and cheap books about magic potions, so his dealings with me were comparable to fanaticism. There was a love letter served on a tray before every breakfast, rose bouquets sent to my room every afternoon, and poems spoken to me in the royal garden.
That kind of attention isn't something I'm used to, so I feel bad about admitting that it did throw me off a little at first. I've never seen a man get on his knees to kiss my hands and tell me, "what a rare, perfect, and beautiful monument of a woman" I am because of my powers. I've never been called "flawless" so many times (or any time) in my lifetime by a regular person; it was horrifying and demobilizing after years of hearing the exact opposite. It didn't make me feel attracted to him or anything shallow like that, but I almost didn't turn my head in time when he stood up to kiss me. The limbo (or catatonia) I fell into made me realize that any person who defines me by my powers is a person I can never satisfy; worshiping me, or something that I could've been born without, doesn't count as seeing me at all, and I want my flaws to be seen, not ignored. (I'd rather be told that it's okay that I'm imperfect, if I'm being honest...)
After I realized that, I was able to put my place in his heart to better use. The month was full of balls and foreign ambassadors giving their blessings to our marriage, but when we were alone, we bonded in his eyes. He thinks women are too pretty to be smart, so I played the part of a shy, unprejudiced, and understanding fiancee without acting so out of character that he saw a hoax. He started to entrust some of his deeper feelings to me about the dynamics in his family, insisting that he was the misunderstood and unpopular brother because the public rated him the least attractive. I was honest when I said the surface shouldn't determine the value of someone's worth, and I guess that made him feel precious for a moment, because his infatuation grew a new leg that night.
Anna, who was supposed to keep an eye on Arendelle while I was gone, took it upon herself to pop up unannounced the following morning. I tried to send her back, but it's hard making a grown woman do anything she doesn't want to do. I keep forgetting that she isn't five or eighteen anymore. She clearly has her own way of reminding me, but I wish she could've done it without beaching a schooner on the shore of a paranoid kingdom. The upside is that two sisters just so happen to make better detectives than one.
To shed some light on my purpose, I wasn't just looking for proof of the family's involvement in Corona's Bovi Fever. I was looking for evidence of two genocide plans, and maybe even an overlooked correlation between both. I had been tipped off in March by Queen Malmö that the Regeringen disguised their extermination of the Kiribas as tension between natives and foreigners. According to her, they were actually training militia and death squads to slaughter the latter; Queen Malmö also suspected Prince Aloysius of hate crimes in the form of "extrajudicial punishments, unjust imprisonments, and ethnic cleansing." Proving something so "systematically choreographed" to the Storting and the world had its bottlenecks, but I was in too deep to backtrack.
On the upside of our investigation, Anna gained the friendship of two Kiriba servants, and I managed to speak to three Freedom Fighters from the kingdom's lower archipelagos. We formed a little network of intelligencers who were willing to confide in us, which helped a lot. I don't know if you care to hear about all of it, but it's important for you to know that the Kiribas are the ones abroad the kingdom's trade ships; that includes cargo ordered by livestock breeders. Now, remember when you told me that you felt like the Southern Isles dropped off sick livestock in Corona on purpose? You also mentioned something about their carriers either incubating the virus or the kingdom itself taking precautionary measures to keep their own safe.
Well, a widow told me there was a case not too long ago about three livestock ships being burned in a cove after their return from the sea. The courts ruled that it was an accident and, for the most part, kept the trial out of the mainstream eye; Kiribas feel like the militia did it because the minorities aboard were "sacrifices." I have yet to get a straight answer from anyone about what they mean by sacrifices, but I think you and I both have the same idea. I just can't confirm or prove it past gossip. Stories keep changing from person to person, and no one knows any names or eyewitnesses who are willing to come forward.
What I did finally get a hold of were Prince Aloysius's receipts and letters to the Regeringen's death squads.
XIII of August, 1848
Hoping that you're sleeping safely,
Just a shout out to @betagyre for making this lovely piece of fanart:
Aside from still being low-key obscure, I swear she's saying some things that will piss Eugene off.
...And why do I feel like doing a one-shot between Prince Asshole and Elsa...? Must resist.
You're probably very busy with sorting out the volunteer groups in Hohendorf and Rugen right now, but I just wanted to let you know before any more time passes that my wedding is finally off once and for all. We don't have to worry about tip-toeing around Prince Aloysius anymore; his letters to the Regeringen were revealed in a press conference with King Castelló of Castellón by none other than himself. A Kiriba servant from our cabal switched around a few papers while my "fiancé" was sleeping off a hangover at his desk. The envelope she tucked it into landed in the lap of King Castelló, whose government usually supplies the Regeringen with the weapons that were used in the guerrilla attacks. He obviously wasn't too pleased with what he read, so he wrote an open letter to the public denouncing their partnership thanks to the Regeringen's abuse of it.
I didn't want my participation to be obvious to the brothers, so I didn't say anything directly about his interference with our postal system, but it turned out that I didn't have to; falconers and scouts from the Southern Isles came forward after Castelló made his statements. By the time Arendelle got wind of it, I had to act disappointed and surprised. Prince Aloysius, who was already a sight, bought the performance — hook, line, and sinker. He even went as far as sobbing about how wrong he was just to repent at my feet. He followed up with burying his face into my legs and saying that he didn't want to lose me or be the person that he was, and spoke of how much he regretted ever lynching a man "just because the Evil Hand told him to."
Something in me tells me that he does need help, and another part of me feels wrong for playing with his emotions like this, but I told him that it was too late for me to accept his excuses because his epiphany should've occurred to him after he saw the families he destroyed, not because our relationship was in jeopardy. I'm not very good at watching anyone's face break, but I wasn't willing to pardon him for terrorizing innocent people. It took the form of two questions in the back of my mind: "How did you get like this, and who taught you that it was acceptable?"
Around the middle of August, the penalty for mail tampering was carried out by the Southern Isles due to the Crown Immunity Act. Prince Aloysius was flogged by Ragnar and imprisoned in the Blåtårn Castle, which is a ruined fortess. Somehow, it makes me wonder if I fell for a red herring. Is King Ragnar the "Evil Hand" who "told Aloysius to," or were Aloysius's ramblings just ramblings since he's never proven himself to be completely sane? Aloysius still wrote apologies and poems to me from his location, but every time I got up to throw them away, I froze. Each poem felt like a coded cry for help.
As of today, something just isn't sitting right with me. I don't know if I should reexamine the brothers or if I should just leave them alone. King Kasimir is the only one I could possibly get some answers from about the family's hierarchy, but if King Ragnar really is the controlling, puppet-pulling tyrant of the litter, then he might be the puppet master I've been looking for all along. What would you make of all this?
The thing that shocks me the most is that Prince Aloysius didn't go looking for the person who dabbled in his letters. He really believed it was some drunken accident. King Ragnar doesn't believe anything less. The woman who did the dabbling in the first place was bought along with a few others by King Castelló five days ago, which puts her in safer hands. It was King Castelló's apologetic way of taking out Kiriba children and mothers who had lost their husbands to the weapons Castellón gave the Southern Isles, but it's my opinion that indentured servitude is still a prejudice practice whenever it involves Mongoloids or any kind of non-Europid group.
In relation to the actual Kiribas, Arendelle can't bully the Southern Isles with war or threats over the genocide. Because unilaterally declaring war or any other aggressive involvement is only effective when there is tax support, I don't have the means to prevent or punish actions of genocide that do not involve Arendelle, but Ragnar is already trying to save face. Losing King Castelló and foreign support took a huge toll on his kingdom's flexibility. He's currently swearing to make reparations for the Kiribati. At the moment, Arendelle is accepting refugees for the first time in history.
I want to get into that whole mess about the Bovi Fever scandal. I still have the same insiders, but I can't contact them again to see whether any proof turned up about the connection between Corona and the cove ships until they leave the Southern Isles. The situation is too sticky and restrictive because I had to pull out against my better judgment; right now, Anna and I are just trying to help them get out of their own. I hate making you wait like this, but I have to once again ask you to be patient. We'll get to the bottom of that skeleton soon enough.
As for me...well, my councillors are looking for another aspirant to replace Prince Aloysius, which I doubt they'll ever find. That leaves me with your question about Isolde and, if I read your older letter correctly, how you and I fall into that quintic equation. What you're not wrong about is the inverse nome. The Storting absolutely does want Arendelle's heir to be my son. Ultimately, that's not really their choice; if I don't have a son, then Isolde is next in line for the throne whether they want to hail her or not.
But outside of the coefficients you brought up, her health and gender are such sensitive topics that I can't move myself to pass my burdens onto her. I definitely don't want to pass them down to you as her father and my cousin; that's why I haven't spoken to you about it. Even if, by some miracle, Isolde's health gets better as she gets older while we're married, where does that leave you in the polynomial?
I guess what I'm trying to say to you is — if you married me, would you be able to live with that? The choice, I mean? The choice of living a loveless, celibate marriage with your wife's cousin for the rest of your life?
VII of September, 1848
Thanking you for all of your kindness and support,
Holy crap, I miss Eugene hard. Writing "epistolary Elsa" is okay, but I just like his humor and straightforwardness to balance out her broodiness and limbo in serious moments.
As for Elsa still being kind after all this (because my friend mentioned liking it), I'm trying to keep her "Disney" like the Elsa from all of Disney's post-Frozen "Sisterhood is the Strongest Magic" books -- or like Disney in general.
Chapter 25: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Sept. 12th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
So let's just jump right into it. Number one, don't you ever ― never, ever ― go MIA on me like that again, Little Missy. I thought I'd never hear from you again, and there's not much more PTS an old timer like me can take. Number two, don't you ever write a letter telling me not to write back until next month and then expect me to make a smart decision such as not writing back until next month. Your whole first letter yelled, "I'm in big trouble and I don't know if I can get out of it," which, to me, foreshadowed an assassination at the hands of Prince Aloysius, King Ragnar, Prince Hans, or any one of those terrible excuses for human beings. I seriously thought you were writing from a hideout, prison tower, or some type of locked closet.
Bursting a blood vessel was the least of my worries. You had me stuck between what I wanted to do and what I had to do, because my daughter is not someone that I can just up and leave, but in my mind, my wife's second flesh and blood was about to be murdered. So, as of right now, my knuckles and wall are still recovering, but I've recovered enough sanity to finally sit down, finish your letter, and respond to you without using inappropriate language. This is actually my fifteenth time rewriting this in all of one day, but I think I can stay calm for this one. The booze helps.
Just as you suspected, I'm not shocked by any of Prince Maniac's media stunts. I most certainly saw this plot line coming from a million kilometers away. He's quick as a hare; I'll give him that, but that information you gave about other kingdoms attacking my marriage is another reason for the dents in my wall. No foreign ambassador or king has ever written to me asking about how I'm doing, what I'm feeling, if I can even make it to the end of the day anymore, or what my mornings are looking like in order to have all of this insight into my "griefless conscience." Hardly anyone ever got to know me before Rapunzel died, so what gives any of these scumbags the right to talk about my marriage and play with my life like it's not real?
Am I real or ever going to be real at any point in my reign? Do they even have a conscience? Have they ever thought for one second that maybe what they're doing is not just "moralless" and "griefless," but excruciatingly harmful? And if they have, why is it okay to everyone else who's just standing around while it happens? Someone needs to explain to me why it's such a popular pastime to assassinate people's characters and hit them where it hurts without even knowing who they are, because everywhere I look, people are painting me out to be this bad person or unfit king who's to blame for everything wrong, and it's driving me insane.
Yes, I have been unfit, but their words aren't making being a better one any easier. It's like the whole world is saying people can't escape a certain image even when they're trying to do the right thing. I'm always going to be the "bastard orphan with the thief rep" to them.
Before I go any further, let me say that I'm really sorry for going off like this. That whole rant was unpremeditated. I don't want to transfer stress by stressing you out with my stress. I shouldn't let this get under my skin so openly. I shouldn't even be spilling my guts to you; me complaining is inappropriate and self-absorbed, but some part of me wanted to finally let that out to somebody somewhere.
I'm also sorry for dragging you into this war zone, Elsa. Neither you nor Rapunzel should be in anyone's name or anyone's sick chicken-scratch. All of these bastards humiliating my wife, bastardizing me, spitting on my marriage, and degrading your chastity better be glad that I can't get my hands around their necks. Pornography is taking "Freedom of Speech" way too far, and if it hasn't been stopped, then I'll put an end to it. Aloysius isn't the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve.
I don't know how you're standing up to this slut-shaming as a woman, but you're a brave one for doing so. You're probably feeling a lot more shaken up than you're letting on, though I'm definitely just as sickened by it as you are. The whole idea of people thinking I want to lay down with you is as upsetting as it is nauseating.
...Not to say that you're nauseating by any means! That's completely not what I meant. You're very attractive! It's just that you're my wife's cousin, for crying out loud. Speculations about infidelity are speculations I need to publicly clear up in a way that I hope you'll be able to help me with, because Corona will take them much worse than those foreigners did if our access to the world ever opens back up.
My track record with women has occasionally haunted me, but these days, it's a political flytrap. Not too long ago, one of my ewerers decided she wanted to run with a horror story that almost tarnished my reputation even further in my own kingdom. But enough about my problems in Corona. ..
What I'd like to know is how, when, and what I could ever be "jealous" of in that prince's warped little mind? Is it the dementia? The absolute lack of human decency? Or just his irresistible, sociopathic personality? Because I do know that I despise every fiber of his miserable being, along with any organ of his that might be in stomping range. On the list of other things I'd like to know, please explain to me what in all that is holy, "his infatuation grew a new leg that night" means?
Clear this one up pronto. I'm going to give the little pervert the benefit of the doubt because you're way too modest to be implying what I think you're implying, but please don't use such poetic imagery if you don't want me endangering my health. That description was terrifying. The whole page about Aloysius was terrifying, and what he needs is a straitjacket. I was going to ask you if he could actually learn or use magic, but I strongly believe that he would've made a love potion by now if that were the case.
And, not that you were looking for my approval in any shape or form, but I'm telling you right now that I don't approve of you spending a whole month in the Southern Isles with him and his siblings. Let's just forget about protocol for a second; you had a choice. Investigation or no investigation, you would've been much better off making an ambassador take care of it. A plan that requires you to put yourself on the line on their turf for a whole month could've gone downhill real bad, real fast. It doesn't matter if you know their strategy; you girls were not holding all the cards in that situation.
Please don't mistake my concern for disrespect. I applaud your sister's stealth and admire how well you pulled this off with so much grace. You were amazing, no doubt, but this is no way to keep my blood pressure from going through the onion dome. I keep thinking about the worst possible thing that could've happened and it overshadows all the things that didn't. I'm about to ask you a question that might feel awkward to answer, but I want you to give it to me straight before we go any further than we've already gone:
Would you have agreed to this engagement if you weren't doing it for me? I know you said you wanted to get closer to the kingdom's secrets, but if we're being honest, you wouldn't have needed to use their own corruptions against them just to get out of a wedding you could've turned down from the beginning. Turning it down would've made things rockier between you, the Storting, and the Southern Isles. I'll be the first to vouch for that, but what you've been doing since April is a billion times rockier. We've obviously developed something ― "indebtitude," a friendship, call it what you please ― but I never asked you to put your life on the line for me.
Don't "reexamine" Hans or his brothers. Don't go to King Kasimir to ask about his family life. Don't emancipate Aloysius. Don't give King Ragnar the opportunity to get a hold of you. Let me take care of them from this point on.
Everything you've explained to me about King Ragnar and his ways are monstrosities I've already seen a preview of. They're a cold-blooded species, Elsa. I warned you about that. It runs in their DNA. How those roots came about is not your business.
While I can see what you're getting at about Hans's rehabilitation, would I have felt sorry for him if I saw him? No. However, I think you do. I don't think it's just about right and wrong for you. I also think you've felt sorry for Prince Aloysius since June.
Whether the feeling was brief or on and off, you have a little soft spot for Aloysius, don't you? Is that only because you can't help but feel compassion for "fallen people," or did some part of you hesitate much longer than you thought it would when he worshiped your powers? The way you're reliving it and reassuring yourself of what you felt makes me think it took a long time for you to come to your final conclusion about his treatment of you.
It took me even longer to come to a similar one, so I'm not diminishing you; being liked for something I was good at or how I looked used to be better to me than not being liked at all. But you still got the hint a little faster than I did, and I am proud of you for applying logic to it. Idolization is objectification, and it's a lot lonelier to be the object of someone's affection over a real, whole person meeting them on their level. I never wanted Rapunzel to feel like I defined her by her hair, her powers, or her title for that reason; she doesn't need magic or tiaras to make her special. It takes the "human" part away, or more importantly, the "Rapunzel" part...
Although I hate to say it, I think you needed to experience a so-called "love" like Aloysius's to get a sample of that cheap brand. The next time someone comes along who isn't interested in you because of your powers, crown, or their definition of "perfection," you'll know he's the better option because he's not treating you like you're made out of magic. To that guy, you'll have cells, organs, and an identity. You'll just be "Elsa." I'm going to take a leap here and say your relationship with your sister taught you that already.
I just want to make sure you're not holding the door open by two inches for Aloysius because some tiny little morsel of you wonders if that's as good as it'll ever get for you in your situation as an unmarried queen. Am I out of line again? Because I want this to be wrong. After all, I could be thinking more about how I was than how you are, so don't feel obliged to respond to that if I'm wrong.
I'm not convinced by Aloysius's "cries for help" or Hans's labor field circumstances. He could be playing on your empathy. Whether you see it or not, he's getting into your head. You already know how much of a performance Hans can put on, so I'm sticking to the fact that the Kiribas are the only people I should feel sorry for, and so should you. It's not anyone's job to save them except them. Even if you think the only maestro here is King Ragnar, (which I don't) don't go inviting trouble by looking into it again; you've done enough.
In like manner, I find it really interesting how everyone's on deck with helping Kiriba refugees at the drop of a hat but don't mind ostracizing us. You should also probably consider the predicament your heavy involvement could put you and Arendelle in. Providing for them is the right thing to do, but is it the smart thing to do? Corona is sucking up your time, health, energy, and finances as a kingdom. Will the Kiriba situation just add another load to where the Storting will fight over "which load" should be dropped first?
That brings me to your "Volunteer Act." Believe me, it was helpful. I didn't expect the volunteers to be boatfuls of doctors; I was even more surprised when they told me they chose to live here knowing they couldn't return home under the Storting's ban. I don't know how you got the Storting to make that deal, but whatever you did, I'm happy (and nervous) that you did it. Don't worry so much; you did well beyond "good," Elsa. (You always do, don't you...?)
The cargo was a big help, too; thank you for convincing the East to contribute. The people who stayed are making big sacrifices and we can't repay them enough. We still have a major shortage of staff members, but you persuaded some of the finest physicians on the continent to tackle Rugen on the strength of your letters, so that's a big step towards improvement. Your volunteer plan has proven to Coronians that the world isn't overrun by greedy politicians and heartless gossipers, after all.
Consequently, Abelard isn't so quick to open his mouth about you anymore these days. My ministers like you a whole lot more than they like me right about now, too. To get to the point: thank you. I need another phrase for "thank you," but I'll say it again anyway: thank you. You've been Corona's backbone.
I really have to cut the rest of this letter short, but I won't end it without clearing up some other misconceptions you have. The law of succession in Corona isn't going to spare Isolde. After I'm dead, the parliament will try to exploit my daughter the same way yours is trying to exploit you. The royal bloodline only has three women left: you, Anna, and Isolde. Someone has to add legitimate seeds to the family tree.
But as long as I'm alive, I'm going to have an ongoing fight with betrothal debuts in the name of politics, so it doesn't matter if I marry you or not. I was never asking you to marry me in the first place. I was just doing the math in my head, and that was one of many quintic equations I thought I had crossed out. (And FYI, I'm terrible at math, so you lost me when you started talking about nomes and whatnot)
Brushing all of that under the rug, Isolde will get better. That's not an opinion, that's a fact. My daughter won't grow up living her life like a quarantined patient. I'll make sure of that. But as for you, Elsa...heed what I said.
XII of September, 1848
Thanking you for all of your kindness and support,
P.S. No, I couldn't live with it. But there wouldn't have been much to live with if it was loveless and celibate.
Chapter 26: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Sept. 19th)☀༻
What's happening over there? Our phenomenal career choices have obviously made us both overworked, but I recall that the rainstorms in mid-September are too strong in Arendelle for pigeons to make it here safely. I also haven't seen Blizzard in a long time. Nordic winters are coming pretty soon, and with us having no sure way of talking to each other until next year, I thought it was odd that you wouldn't try to reply; it isn't like you at all. (Though I'm probably making a mountain out of a molehill since you could already be in the process of sending something while I'm sending this right now)
That isn't the only reason why I'm writing to you tonight. I thought you should know about what I dug up a couple of days ago in relation to my old messenger, Bogohardt. Do you remember when you told me last year about a story of him being in Hohendorf? It's come to light that it wasn't inaccurate. I guess both of us have had a sense for sniffing out each other's conspirators.
Since our human postal service isn't in service anymore, Bogohardt's been volunteering in Rugen. Last week, there was a letter of confessions that he wanted his wife to write for him. Part of that list was sent to me by her. On it, he talks about a cabal he was affiliated with. Its members called themselves the "Resistance," and they were a group of countryside villagers who weren't pleased by my stance as the current monarch of Corona. They weren't too fond of you, either; one of their biggest fears was that you'd seek out Rapunzel's throne because you're the one with blood ties to Corona.
From what I read, Bogohardt claims in his letter that he was forced to be their messenger before the Bovi Fever changed all of that. He'd show them your letters every now and then, but things got to a point where he grew tired of the guilt, so they attacked him in Hohendorf after he said your January 10th letter would be the last one. I don't know why he didn't tell me all of this sooner. He must've thought I was the type of king who'd execute him for coming clean like an honest man. He deliberately went missing before his wife delivered the letter; this situation mirrors the one you had with your secretary's assistant, so my guess is that the Resistance and the Southern Isles were allies.
I couldn't get too much info about the actual cabal. I can say that the witnesses my men interviewed last year were either members themselves or covering up for them to save their own lives, which I don't blame them for. Too many people have died in Hohendorf, and I haven't been given in any reason to suspect that the people in the cabal survived. Even if they did, we're all too concerned with squirreling away what we can and healing who we can to be wasting our energy on secret societies, so they know now that the Southern Isles wasn't planning on saving them from the Bovi Fever. Not everyone here likes me, clearly, but at least everyone here knows survival and unity comes first.
We're overeating fish from Corona and Arendelle, but we're not complaining. Miserably, winter is still around the corner, and your food shipments obviously won't be as often or diverse as they used to be. We'll be stocking up on all the Arendellian cuisines you can get to us before the snowfall gets heavy. Isolde reminded me that my birthday is also coming up. For the first time in a long time, I'm not really looking forward to it.
Let me know how your situation with the Kiribas is turning out. I hope I didn't sound heartless when I brought it up. I was just trying to look out for you the way you've been looking out for me.
XIX of September, 1848
I have been trying to do everything in my power to reach out to you since February, but I haven't been able to hold a quill or see another human being up until just recently. I have faith in the belief that you're safe and sound in Arendelle because I rowed all the way out to sea to speak to one of your captains the other day. He was kind enough to give me a warm drink and a blanket while we sat in his cabin. He's probably going to tell you that I cried my heart out before he could finish telling me about you. And in regards to touching on that....well, quite honestly, I'm always afraid to tell you about me. I know what happens when I tell you horrible news, and I know what happens when I try to keep it away from you.
I also know that, as things stand right now, you can't help me more than you already have, which has been tremendously. You have done more for me and Isolde than I ever could have asked for. You've been extraordinary. Really extraordinary. You have been absolutely, positively perfect...
It's just that . .. . everything has been more than just horrible this winter. It's been gruesome. It's been unbearable. This has been the worst season in our entire lives. Rapunzel and her parents being taken away from me are the only nightmares that are equivalent to this.
.. . . .. .... . . . .. .... . . . .. ...
. . ... . . . . . ...
I have buried eighteen babies - small, innocent babies who didn't do a damn thing to anyone on this repulsive continent - from December 20th to January 31st with my own two hands in the freezing cold snow. Their immune systems couldn't hold out against the weather, so the unimaginable happened to almost half of the island orphanage's nursery. I've never gotten on my knees in front of a bishop before, but I got on them then. Those kids had no one. They had no family to cry for them or even acknowledge that they were gone; it was just the orphanage, a kingdom of strangers, and me.
I haven't come back from any of it. How could I? How would you? Maybe in ten years, I'll be able to lie in bed and stare at my ceiling without seeing hundreds of faces screaming at me, but right now, these faces are all that I'm seeing. I can't even see Rapunzel's anymore; it's buried under the mob of screaming ones.
I now have to close my eyes and think about Isolde and all of the people who are still alive - who still need me - in order to keep something that at least resembles sanity, but most of them are screaming at me, too. My very small, and very short, coronation was scheduled after the burials, along with my daughter's birthday, which is also the day that Rapunzel passed away. I can't even write about how that combination made me feel inside, but I can describe how it made everyone else react. I was blamed and heckled for the deaths of those sick infants just like I was blamed for the deaths in Hohendorf. People started repeating everything that everyone else in the world thinks:
"If Corona hadn't crowned Eugene, then other countries would have cared about us."
"If Eugene wasn't king, then those deaths wouldn't have happened."
More people than I ever thought possible defended me against them, but the people who echoed those accusations still had me thinking about options that I'm too ashamed to mention..... . .
.. . . .. .... . . . .. .... . . . .. ...
. . ... . . . . . ...
I feel like a murderer.
. . . ..... . . . . .. . . .... . .
... . . .. .... . . . .. ... . . . . .. ...... .
And maybe it's time that I accept that I am one.
I of March, 1849
Aren't I lucky that I have absolutely nothing to do tomorrow except be sick ASF?
Chapter 28: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Apr. 1st)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
I think I may have scared you with my last letter. I just want to make it clear that I wasn't writing you a goodbye note or some epiphany about surrendering. I wrote what I wrote because, at the time, I suppose I felt like you were the only person who would understand what I was going through. Virtually everything has taken me out of character all year; more flares are popping up on the island because a traitor purposely brought infected meat into the kingdom. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that things probably aren't going according to your plans right about now, either... . especially with this.. .."us" thing that we've been trying to make work for the sake of our political relations.
I did ask the captain to tell me how you were again, and he assured me that you were okay. Then I noticed that Fredmund was working aboard as a full-fledged first mate. He told me your snowgies have been rebelling against your homing spell lately. He also said your council is trying to marry you off to a powerful trade partner, that you're traveling between other nations due to the Kiribati situation while still trying to get your allies on my side, that you're also still trying to convince people of our innocence as relatives, and something about you smelling like lavender. I'm certain that you already remember what my thoughts were about some of the above (minus the lavender part; I've never taken a whiff of your personal scent whatsoever, though I'm sure it's lovely), but what I will repeat and continue to repeat is this: please stop doing that. That drives me nuts about you.
Please don't keep trying to redeem me in the eyes of everyone else with that notoriously unbending perseverance of yours. Please, please don't spend any more of your energy on gossipers you can't convince. I'm never going to be the perfect king, husband, or person to anyone as long as I sit where I'm sitting. Your lovable habit of never listening to what anyone tells you, frustrating as it sometimes is, unfortunately isn't lovable enough to change that. Chatho and Zaria are still helping us with inoculations, so you've at least succeeded with two kingdoms.
You and I are also probably never going to live this love scandal down as long as we keep talking...or as long as I keep using adjectives like "lovable." But, if it would do our reputations any good in the grand scheme of things, I can do what I should have done from the beginning and write to you in a less "personal" fashion. No colloquialisms, no colorful catchphrases, no punchlines, and no intimate conversations. Just business and diplomacy. I can try to change and talk like an actual king is supposed to, which is probably better than me being me if I plan on wearing Frederic's crown to my grave
That way, if anything ever did fall into the wrong hands again, they can't use it as another "crime" to wave in our faces. Whichever way you slice it, I almost can't believe it's gotten to this point period. Even I have to stop and ask myself, "Is this okay...?" because of everything that's happened. I've honestly been waiting for you to police me a little here, which you're free to do. Getting intimate with you was never part of the plan.
I of April, 1849
P.S. Happy birthday. I hope you and your sister still managed to have a frostmazing time.
To My Beloved Cousin,
I like the way you write to me. I like your colloquialisms, catchphrases, and punchlines no matter how "frustrating" they can be at times. Those charming quirks are important parts of your self-expression, and you shouldn't try to change that to fit a standard set by people who don't care about you. I used to say that there is no right way to be a king or queen except to put our kingdoms before ourselves. You've been doing that since the very beginning to a fault, so now my advice to you is to make yourself a priority.
What I don't like is the way you minimize the impact that pain has had on you while you're hurting. It's okay not to hide behind a joke after something traumatic has happened. It's okay to open your heart. It's okay to say that you can't take it anymore. It's okay to not be okay.
You make a habit out of writing to me like you're alright after something awful has happened to you, which is something that drives me nuts about you, so we're even on that. You have to let yourself feel, Eugene, and you have to share those feelings with someone. Why would getting intimate not be some part of the plan when it involves your family? Even from a diplomatic standpoint, I need to know about your feelings and experiences in order to get a better understanding of everything I need to do on your behalf. If we pull back now, it would be damaging to both of us; I don't just mean politically, but emotionally as well.
I've said before that I understand why our relationship will take some getting used to, but I don't want you to back away from me. This "us thing" that we have is a building bond between relatives, and I want our progress to be comforting instead of intimidating. What happened last winter is exactly why I want you to always confide in me without holding anything back. If you hadn't cried while you were writing that letter, then I would have been even more concerned for your mental health than I am right now.
That's why I have to thank you for sharing such a vulnerable part of yourself with me. It was intense and it was frightening, but I want to nurture that part of you because it has also been neglected. One thing you must understand is that there is no getting over the deaths of those infants just like there is no getting over the death of Rapunzel. You may not be able to live through this experience without feeling any post-traumatic pain. You may always see those crying faces, but you don't have to believe everything your mind tells you when you're alone in your bed.
Before you go to bed every night and after you wake up every morning, I want you to tell yourself that you are not a murderer; you are trying as hard as you can; you do have the strength to get through this; your existence does matter, and you deserve to be loved. Be gentle to that fragile part of yourself that you keep on neglecting. He needs your love as well as your family's. I just wish I was actually there to shower you with it, because I also died after hearing about what happened to you and your children. I wanted to reach through the barrier and embrace you, if I could have .. .. . I wanted to embrace each and every one of you. . ...
I understand that there isn't a warm hug or special lecture that can turn back the hands of time, but I badly want to be that person for you and Corona. When I first started writing to you, I told you that Anna and I could stand in these moments with you no matter how far away we were. Now it just sounds meaningless to say, "I'm by your side" when I still can't hug you and Isolde. I didn't even have time last year or this year to just sit down and write, "Happy Birthday" to you and your daughter because I've been spreading myself so thin for people outside of our family. I took your paragraph about your role in your people's lives as a departure note, one that said you had made the choice to either off yourself or leave your throne with your daughter. I allowed my emotions to cloud my judgement and let one impulse lead to another. Since the travel ban prevents me from sailing, I chose that month to do the next reckless thing: use my powers.
Using my powers to reach you ended very badly, because I landed myself back in bed with my physician treating the consequences. I probably shouldn't have done it the way I did it, but I don't regret following my heart. I see that Fredmund purposely left that part out. He also gave me some information about your days. You mentioned a scandal with a servant last year, which appears to be frighteningly widespread in Corona.
I don't know if it's true or false, because I, for one, am not living in Corona with you. Two, I am not a man, so I can't say whether or not temptation, especially when one is emotionally fragile, is hard to resist as a man, given how much you've spoken about your difficulties with women in the past. I've chosen to believe that you are innocent until proven guilty. You didn't sound too evasive when you brought it up because of the simple fact that you did, and several people in Corona seem like they're out to push you over the edge with whatever they can. Add that to the way hecklers are abusing you after everything you've done for Corona, and I'm more concerned about a revolt breaking out than I am about the possibility of a pregnant concubine.
Your country's opinions about your presence as king aren't remotely reasonable, so don't you dare kneel to them. The same people who turned their backs on Corona are the same people who refused to dock in your harbor before these allegations came out, which means that your forfeiture won't matter. They're the murderers, not you. According to what I was told, you have many personal victories to celebrate this year. Try to keep those in mind whenever you start doubting your existence.
You are Corona's last drop of sunlight. I won't ever stop telling you that, but I won't sit here and tell you that I don't understand why you're feeling the way you feel. I won't tell you that your feelings are invalid, either. People weren't just attacking me because I had magic; I really was the cause of everything that went wrong, so I thought that if I stepped down from my throne, everyone's lives would be better. I learned too late that giving it up only made things worse by opening up a door for havoc, so I had to go back and fix my mistakes.
Like Arendelle was for me, Corona is your destiny now, so wherever you run, you can never fully escape it. Foreigners know that. They dread that. However, your sanity has to come first. The dangers that both you and your daughter have to face are not just physical threats anymore.
On those grounds, I need you to tell me what your next move will be. Even though I feel like your letter is whitewashing the fact that abdication may or may not still be on your mind, I won't make you feel bad about it. It's not my place. I'll support you either way. I just want to know what your long-term plans are.
Are you thinking about reconsidering my offer to have one or both of you live here with me and Anna? Are you going to keep going as you are? Or are you going to consider other possibilities outside of abdication? If we did marry, my parliament would have no choice but to open its arms. Unfortunately, there are sacrifices that you and I might have to make as people.
I think it's wonderful that you have so much faith in Isolde's future. Seeing and striving for the best for your daughter is exactly what a father is supposed to do, but there's still a very big chance that she'll always have health difficulties. I don't want to lie down with you any more than you want to lie down with me, but the likelihood would always be breathing down our necks. Before I end my letter, I should add that I read what you had to say about my trip in the Southern Isles, Hans's family, the Kiribas, and my feelings towards Prince Aloysius. I respect your opinions even if I disagree with many of them; some were correct.
I can't report any new developments or reply to every single detail in your earlier letters at this time, but one thing I couldn't wait to thank you for was your kind speech regarding my powers. I can see why Rapunzel fell in love with you.
XII of April, 1849
Sorry about this letter being so underwhelming in the emotional department; I kinda fell out with it a bit...but damn, I can't believe we're almost thirty chapters into this. This is alien to me. I've never written anything longer than eight chapters, pft.
You might've noticed that I decided to take off the italics and add a CSS skin. This font makes things a lot easier for me to read/write/edit through, because I explicitly use AO3 to write WIPs.
Chapter 30: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Apr. 20th)☀༻
To Your Majesty the Queen,
We've always been even when it comes down to driving each other nuts in the habit department. I'm really not trying to make a habit out of giving you what you think is a sprightly facade, but as I've said once before, I have my coping mechanisms and you have yours. Right alongside the quirks you do like, some ways I express myself are not always done on purpose or to exclude you. I hope I can apply the same explanation to you.
I asked you critical questions in September that I still haven't gotten any answers to. I find that hard to put up on the shelf. To put it politely, it seems like because I brought an uncomfortable possibility about Aloysius to light, you've pulled back from laying out your own activities and feelings. Are your feelings for Aloysius what I was right about, or are those feelings only a small part of it? Because right now, I'm starting to believe that you're communicating with him and the brothers after I specifically told you not to; if I'm wrong, then please don't keep giving me a reason to think I'm right.
I didn't mean to say that getting intimate with you wasn't part of the plan. It's just that I wasn't anticipating on how intimate it would get, and I didn't really realize how intimate it was getting until it had already gotten there. "Family" is a noun and a verb that I've always had to get used to labeling people under, especially now. With us, I was starting to fall back into the dynamics of what family felt like again before I had actually given myself a moment to get acclimated to the speed. No thanks to your Virgin Mary kindness and queenly charms, which I revere more than you revere my catchphrases.
You've been doing everything you can to make sure I see you as my family and not an acquaintance who never had any particular inclination towards me (or vice versa) outside of cordiality. We've waltzed around one another without actually knowing what we thought about each other until this tragedy forced us to be family. Under these circumstances, I've grown to like and respect you, and not just as an acquaintance, ally, or some distant relative I write to, but as a person, and that's going to take more getting used to. But would you and I have the relationship we have right now if none of this ever happened? Is it unconditional or conditional?
The point is, please give me some time to come around without getting cold feet. Keeping feelings pent up isn't the best thing to do, but there are going to be moments where I feel like I've already broken down to you more times than I'm okay with. Your advice is always wise, so I'm not on the fence about your wisdom. I value what you have to say, and I'm not on the fence about that, either. I don't need you to be anyone for me, though. Like I said before, you've been plenty.
It's not your fault that you can't be here; nor is it a bad thing. A hug would be great right about now, but sometimes I can feel you through your letters. When I do, you're the most soothing thing I've ever felt next to my father-in-law; I honestly don't feel as alienated or unfit to be king when you lecture me or open up about yourself. I know someone who's actually willing to listen to me has gone through something similar and had no choice but to come out stronger because of it. I feel like in time I can look to you for balance and peace of mind, which is a scary amount of trust to think about placing into anyone outside of my own wife.
But now that you've reestablished what it is you want from me, the only thing I want consistently from you is the same thing. Nevermind what Fredmund purposely left out; you're leaving out more than your fair share. Almost eight months have gone by and you wrote one paragraph about everything that's happened in between that time, most of which was thoroughly ambiguous and shamelessly bowdlerized. Aren't you cheating me out of a deal here? You're being hypocritical again without effort, so I'm not in the best mind to read about what you want me to express.
I could deal with last winter's episode better by breaking down on paper in a more consistent pattern to say what you'd prefer to hear how you'd prefer to hear it, but you consistently watering things down on your end of the spectrum doesn't motivate me to open up my floodgates by any stretch of the imagination. You know my reason for holding back, but I never quite know yours every time I spot you doing it. And because I don't know yours, my head is making up a lot of reasons for why you're holding back this time. Don't stiff me, Your Majesty. I don't take well to withholders.
I didn't impregnate my servant, so the story is false. As of today, I don't know which offer of yours I'm considering anymore, but I won't be abdicating this year. Needing to have children with my wife's cousin to guarantee my security is definitely not in the cards, though. I hope that you continue to recover from the vague aftereffects you suffered. I don't want anything bad happening to you the same way you don't want anything bad happening to me, especially not because of me.
The frequency of my letters is going to dwindle down because my council is redirecting my attention to another woman from another kingdom, so forgive me if I fizzle out. It looks like I have my own Aloysius to deal with.
XX of April, 1849
Chapter 31: ༺❄Dear Eugene (May. 1st)❄༻
As you ask me questions about whether our current relationship is conditional or unconditional, you appear to be implying that you're growing suspicious of my intentions overall. I am not purposely withholding information from you, stiffing you, or cheating you out of a deal. I didn't think it was the right time to redirect the letter to my problems and neither did I have the time to do so. Apart from my slow recovery, my breathing spells and free hours are wearing thin. Please consider the possibility of my constitution having limitations without jumping to conclusions; the fact that you didn't leads me to believe that your skepticism does not entirely stem from my ambiguity or your trust issues.
To expand upon what I was unable to, I disliked you considering the odds of my heart reserving a special place for Aloysius because he deified me. Contrary to what you believe, I would never base even the tiniest ounce of favoritism for a man on how much he apotheosizes my powers. My heart isn't that fickle. It's only natural that I would hesitate in a situation that rare, but romantic feelings and desperation had nothing to do with it. That is the opinion I disagreed with.
I can understand why you have a lack of empathy for Aloysius along with what goes on between the brothers; at the same time, I'm put off by your perspective of it. I am sensitive towards his plight, but having compassion is not the same thing as relinquishing the person of all responsibility; it's a level of awareness, not a level of naivete. I don't necessarily appreciate your tone in your scoldings about "specifically telling me not to" follow my own inclinations, either. With all due respect, I can very well do what I feel that I have to do. If Aloysius was being threatened to commit atrocious crimes, then overlooking it would be inconvenient for both of us.
What you were right about was my investment in the anti-genocide campaign. The good news is that the Southern Isles has been forced to release its bondage contract on indentured servants. The King of the Kiribati Isles has also finally stepped in to return his people to his kingdom as of last month thanks to the international support. His ambassador explained how the kingdom was harassed into consenting to the practice of debt slavery for several generations, but the tension never climaxed until the Late Blight in 1845.
Another thought you were partially right about was my motivation to accept Prince Aloysius's proposal. Much of that was for Corona; if you can recall, much of that was also kindled by my desire to keep the peace between our countries until I finally had a political reason to withdraw. Otherwise, my maidenhood would have been undermined by all of the men who are marketing my chastity. Unfortunately, the foreign friends I gained in the Southern Isles have also withdrawn from revisiting the rumor about the cove murders; the court scandals have failed to surface for the one mole I have left in the kingdom. If Aloysius could be my mole, I would have better luck, but I know that the risks are too high.
Although I haven't answered them, you are correct about Aloysius sending me letters aggressively. I refrained from mentioning these disclosures because you were already experiencing extreme identity crisis, depression, and anger over Corona's tragedies, so I thought this information wouldn't help. Not too long ago, I did open one of his letters because it was stained with blood. In it, he promised he would reveal the truth about who poisoned you if I agreed to "bless him with my fair sex before he was condemned to a slow death." In other words, he's asking that I sleep with him.
I hope you understand now why I didn't want to add this in my reply to you. His plea read as follows:
"Should you accidentally kill me in the act, then I would love you even more. Death by your rose would be a much more beautiful death than the one my brother has in store for me. Your love for one night is the last comfort he will allow me to have."
I have no intentions of giving myself to him. I can't even wrap my head around prostituting my dignity in exchange for information. Am I struck by the proof of King Ragnar's depotism, however? Yes, so whatever I choose to do from this moment on will be a choice that I need you to respect and trust. Excluding Hans, King Kasimir has informed me about the psychological choke-hold that man has on his brothers, and I have seen the way my ally would avoid speaking in Ragnar's presence.
Prince Hans, on the other hand, has been moved to a less ruthless environment. Instead of making his brother toil on the kingdom's cay like a slave for his own amusement, King Ragnar has confined him to a small shack on an even smaller cay without people or villages anywhere in sight. This level of exile, which Ragnar calls "Hans's graduation gift for good behavior," only allows him to have human contact with the officers who supervise him, the older princes who visit him, and the sailors who bring him food. King Kasimir urges that the one pastime he has (writing literature) keeps his health in good kilter, but the isolation is not going to improve his emotional disconnection from mankind. It'll only worsen it.
What you think is pity for Hans is actually caution. In order to prevent someone from repeating the same crime, you have to tackle their pathology. If Hans is not properly handled in a way that is mentally healthy, then there is no telling what other havoc he could wreck on Corona or Arendelle even from where he resides now. He clearly had someone helping him defame you during the long distance hell he unleashed. Maybe the actual writer is one of the older princes; I can't really say, but something has to change for the better.
Towards the end of winter, I used my powers to create a ship after I read your note. It was little more than an iceberg in the shape of an unfinished schooner. I've never done that before, so trying to steer it with my magic, which has still been a little iffy since the Bovi Fever, is what landed me in bed with a broken ankle. Royal prerogative makes it so that I can disregard the Storting's travel ban so long as I don't use any funds to travel with, which makes it impossible to use a normal ship or seafaring supplies. My thinking was very short-sighted in that aspect; spending over twenty hours at sea without the latter would've been absurd.
Had I known you'd react this strongly, I would've put off the letter to explain that episode in greater detail when I found more time. I was just so eager to write to you and send something that I decided to save it for another letter instead. I don't want to be a hypocrite, but in all seriousness, even I'm getting to a point where I feel like it's almost wrong to talk about my end. My issues here feel too insignificant to mention compared to your issues there. Therefore, I feel selfish bringing it up; I guess I fall victim to the same fears that keep you from inviting me into all of your affairs, and for that, I do apologize.
To hear you say that I'm beginning to find a place in your heart is all I've ever wanted, but I don't think I've ever truly given you a reason to second guess the authenticity of our relationship to the point where you're also second guessing the placement you're giving me. Heartfelt as they are, some of your compliments are written like disclaimers. I feel as though your real feelings only unravel near the end of the letter; the rest is sending mixed messages while derailing most. Your fear is justifiable because I know about the world you come from, but your doubt does hurt me regardless of whether you or I think it's justified or not.
I've always wanted to get to know you before all of this happened. By marrying into the very small part of the family I had left, you automatically became an extension of the most important thing in my life, but I was under the impression for many years that you were indifferent towards me. I'm at fault for keeping an emotional distance in response, because I should've reached out to you ages ago without using Rapunzel as that bridge. It is possible that our relationship wouldn't have happened without this tragedy, but my love is unconditional. I think I've done everything that is currently within my power to prove that to you, and I've alluded to wanting to make up for the moments we never shared together.
I can only take your word for it when you say you didn't impregnate your ewerer. I just hope you aren't sharing your bed with vulnerable maidens or miserable harlots in Corona at all. It'll inevitably lead to an illegitimate child and more character defamation. At worst, it'll lead to confusion on both sides. Sometimes when women, and I suppose even men, are at their lowest, they confuse compassion and desperation with true love.
I take it that you misunderstood my last lines about Isolde. It's not that I think she won't grow up to become a healthy young princess. With you as her father, she'll only grow stronger. I was just presenting the alternative to make sure that you were aware of it before you answered. Again, this is only a distant notion, not a forward proposal.
Based on your closing, your parliament is just as overbearing as mine. I hope you end up finding some common ground with your mystery suitress instead.
I of May, 1849
To Your Majesty the Queen,
So I guess it's safe to say that this standoff marks a standstill in our relationship. The way you responded wasn't at all what I was expecting, but it revealed a great deal. I believed you when you said your accident, priorities, and guilt had a lot to do with your circumvention. I am completely at fault for not taking those complications into account, but it's hard to do that when I don't know the whole story. The reason why I'm not totally convinced that those reasons were the only reasons is because you got unnecessarily defensive about Aloysius, to name one thorn.
If I offended you or hurt you in any shape or form, then I apologize for my part for the umpteenth time. Hurting you wasn't what I set out to do, but it seems unavoidable. To make it easier on ourselves, we don't have to get into it again about trust, your manipulative ex-fiance, or conditional family bonding. I see now that those topics are sore spots. Our convictions about the middle subject will most likely never mesh.
What we should do instead is focus on staying statesmanlike without letting our "relationship" get in the way of politics. Aside from not having any time myself, I almost didn't write to you at all because I felt like I needed to step away from this overemotional intermission before either one or both of us exploded. I'm already worn out from arguing with the people in my own council. Since you haven't written to me again, I can only assume that you're taking the same break. Clearly, we've been losing sight of the most important relationship here, which is the one (or lack of) between the Crowns of Arendelle and Corona.
Whatever you've done with Aloysius, Kasimir, Hans, and the rest of that family is something I'm sure you already did before I sat down to finish this letter. Your ships are still coming and your sailors are still saying you haven't set foot in the Southern Isles or Norrlind, so I know you haven't been harmed by those monsters. I naturally would have liked to stop you from going through your once again heavily shrouded plans by writing long paragraphs of rage to dissuade you, but my common sense reminded me that I can't keep losing my head over a situation that I'm powerless in. I reconciled myself to the fact that the only choice I have is to respect yours and pray that you knew what you were doing this time around; just tell me what happened without abridgments or adjectives when you get a chance, because you certainly owe me that much.
My mystery woman was more of a swindler than a suitress (and it actually took me a few months to find your letter underneath all the book-length love notes she's been sending me). My council now thinks my daughter is "gestationally" unfit to be queen, so having another child with another princess to secure another alliance was their idea of a backup plan. But as you and I both know, no country is willing to produce kids with my DNA ― or so I thought. Lady Luck unfortunately proved me wrong again by dropping on my desk in the middle of April. Fatima, the childless Queen Dowager of Setúball since late March, wrote me a mushy letter that gradually transitioned into hundreds of mushy letters about her undying love for me.
She and I are ― or rather, were ― good acquaintances. Before I became king, Setúball was one of the first kingdoms I negotiated with, so I had a pretty good reputation in her court. Her then-husband asked us to restrict our interaction to banquets "or else" because she had grown smitten with me over the course of my trips. She never acted on her feelings or showed Rapunzel unkindness in Corona, though. She never discriminated against me because of my background, either.
When Fatima reached out to me just recently, she didn't sound like an opportunist. The conditions she revealed after grooming my ministers into the idea of a union ended up demonstrating the opposite. Not only did her parliament insist upon keeping me from going back to Corona after the marriage, but my people would be permanently banned from traveling to Setúball as a "precautionary measure." Nothing about that sounded like mutual assistance, so my council ultimately dropped the engagement. It's a good thing that I'm used to liars by now.
The past few months have been better to Corona. Flares are still coming and going, but we've created an even more organized health care system now that our herbalists know what they're doing under the guidance of Arendelle's physicians, and the livestock have been under tighter surveillance. Crops are slowly bringing some hope to the kingdom, too. Rugen itself is still struggling in some parts; Isolde and I are spending more time in the castle, though. I just have one favor to ask:
Is there any way that Chatho could ship another load of inoculations before October? We just started running low and the people who weren't cured in time are having the hardest time right now. It'll take another year of remissions and relapses before they can truly call themselves better. They don't live the same lifestyle as everyone else, but I'm working on making their situation as comfortable as I can make it. More inoculations would be a plus.
Lastly, I really do want to mention how sorry I am for upsetting you so much with my March letter to the point where you got hurt so badly. Epic ice ship aside, I won't give you anymore reasons to go making emotional decisions like that again. We can leave the negotiations to our representatives.
XIX of September, 1849
Soooo, this sounds more like a written break-up. Anyway, we're nearing the end of this fic! Trying to hold my attention span (and plot memory) in one piece, because it's been goin'...hopefully the fic is even still making sense. :/
Chapter 33: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Dec. 25th)❄༻
To Your Majesty the King,
Beloved cousin, in my faith that Vice Admiral Oslo has delivered this message safely, I desperately beseech you to choose whatever punishment you see fit for my having not protected you or my precious brothers and sisters of Corona in time. You were all of mine...all of mine to keep safe and love like you were my very own, yet I have broken the one promise that I said I could keep unless I had been strangled to death in my sleep. Because I can never forgive myself for letting death come to Corona, I will not beg you to pardon my worthlessness with your kind heart, which is a heart that I have grown to cherish as though it was Rapunzel's speaking to me from the other side. I am ordering my frigates and battalions in Corona to remain by your side until I have punished Ragnar for his wickedness. Offers were made to Prince Aloysius months ago so that he would be compelled to expose his brother, but he warned me about Ragnar's ambush on Corona only after that monster had set sail.
The Storting still forbids me from coming to your side even though our navy is now exempt from the travel ban. I am working to abolish these sadistic restrictions and send for you if I can not be with you in body. Tonight, I wish to implore Your Majesty to write to me (or Anna, if she is the better alternative) once you are in better health and spirit. Admiral Oslo has tried to console us by saying you, your daughter, and your port citizens escaped the invasion of Rugen thanks to your leadership, but we need to hear your voice on paper. .. .
I need to hear your voice on paper.
I know I can't bring back the lives that were stolen from you as much as I have cried for them to be returned, but I pray that Rapunzel will punish me in death if ever I allow death to come to you or Isolde. For as it is Arendelle's obligation to protect Corona from genocide, it is so my duty to devote my love and blood to you, and thus I will stand in this indentureship until I have no blood left to bleed.
XXV of December, 1849
Your Majesty's most loyal subject, who has been from the beginning, and will be to her end,
To My Savioress,
I can tell by your vocabulary that you're afraid to speak your heart naturally. You don't have to write a script to condense your emotions or ask me for mercy, because there aren't enough words in the English language to describe how fortunate I am to have you in my life. Without you, I don't know where Corona would be right now. I almost lost what little bit of strength I had left after we held off Ragnar's first attack. I had it in my mind that there was no possible way I would be able to keep our defenses up for another day; I was about ready to drop my sword and offer my head to Ragnar so that my daughter could live, but then I saw your crocus flag flickering in the wind, and I couldn't get off my knees fast enough to run over to who I thought was you standing on my pier.
To my surprise, it wasn't you at all. The person waiting for me at the end of the dock was your admiral. I don't want you to think I was any less grateful or relieved or anything of the sort. It's just that I had been really hoping, after everything I’d been through, that the very first person to run up to me on that pier would be you. You are, as of now, the one and only political subject I have whom I can rely on and confide in, and what I desperately needed right then was your shoulder.
I discovered during the interlude of this invasion that the Southern Isles had recruited executive allies in Corona after Rapunzel's death. The High Councillor of the People's Council is the traitor who planted the Arsena poison under Ragnar's instructions. You were right all along about that serpent using King Kasimir, Sigfus Söderman, and everyone else as carrots to throw me off his rotten stench. I'm still ambivalent to say that Kasimir and the rest of the Westergaards were forced to participate, but that's only because the High Councillor's confession, which was horribly overacted, tried to make it seem like he complied with Ragnar out of fear for his life, not to secure ill-gotten gain. The man only exposed his tweaked version of the truth because Ragnar had exposed him in my meeting with him (and I promise that I'll explain this in greater detail later). I'm sorry for waffling on my faith in you and hurting you in the process, Elsa; I truly, truly am.
High Councillor Krämer fraternizing with Ragnar under the assumption that, "he was doing what was best for Corona's futurity" is precisely why my trust issues are intensifying in this occupation. He was keeping Ragnar updated on our "progress" (I.E. declination), purchasing personal goods from his traders, and blackmailing our own legislators into grooming his plans, so this invasion was scheduled. I knew that either one or all of the Westergaards were behind the Bovi Fever, but never in a billion years did I think they would actually try to sail here due to the rampancy of the fever. After we started to decrease infectee numbers with your help, I can only guess that Krämer informed them about that, too. I should've seen the signs earlier, and I hate myself for not seeing them earlier.
Ever since I rejected Fatima last fall, things only got worse in Rugen under government administration — or to put it more accurately, Krämer's thumb. The government neglected ensuring that Arendelle's food was being proportionally rationed between Corona's capital and Rugen, which I had no knowledge of until I arrived in Rugen myself at the end of September. Massive groups of smallholders were also being pushed out onto the streets by their landlords, resulting in an outrageous growth of brigandage, homelessness, and malnutrition-induced diseases; their percentages were heavily downplayed in my official records by personnel Krämer had held hostage. To rub even more salt in the wound, Rugen's meal centers and poor shelters were shut down in autumn. The excuse, which I had reluctantly bowed my head to, was that it would lower expenses and fever circulation even though food and estate would've been more affordable for the poor if our prices weren't so astronomically high compared to what they earn.
To compensate for it, I introduced your first famine reliever (retrenchment) and higher wage plans, but my ideas kept getting shelved, shunned, and rallied against by the nobles in my kingdom. Every decision I put on the table seemed to get trashed before anyone had time to defecate them. The only listener who ever took my concerns seriously was you. The majority of my advisers have been determined to think that I'll mess up and destroy Corona more than I already have, so my whole autumn was spent under the parliament's "house arrest," which consisted of Krämer undermining my powers to magnify the ones that belong to the People's Council.
Then December came, the month Corona is always at its weakest. Hohendorf Bay coast guards were seized by Ragnar's stealth fleets in the middle of the night without putting up a fight. Whoever knew about his frigates sitting in Hohendorf's cove was most likely shot and killed on the spot. I was only made aware of the danger after the cocky bastard sent a battered orphan to the capital with a letter of salutations at sunrise. Instead of exterminating villagers, he requested that I meet with him privately on his ship by midnight; if I refused, "then Rugen's soil will be red by dawn." I was left with no choice but to comply, so I took the risk and rode alone.
It's hard to not be able to explain to your children how the world works when terrible things happen. I haven't explained to Isolde why her mother isn't here to kiss her goodnight, and I wasn't able to explain to her that night why her old man might not be coming back home to kiss her good morning. I simply read a bedtime story to her about Rapunzel and then talked about you in the epilogue. I told her about Arendelle, Anna, and how nice it was there in summer — how nice you ladies would be to her when she got there once her lungs were stronger. She must've saw through the smokescreen, because she wasn't too pleased by what I was saying, but I wanted to keep her as carefree as I could before I sang her to sleep.
I've walked thousands of lonely roads in my lifetime, but that was the loneliest road I've ever had to walk. I won't say I didn't pray for your ice fleet to appear over that starless horizon every step of the way. I wanted to see you manifest from the snow so badly that I thought I saw you standing on the bridge in some sheer gown like you had actually materialized from the snowflakes that were flying in the air. I don't exactly remember the color or the gown, but from where I was standing, it sparkled like rime just before sunrise hits the castle windows. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever laid eyes on.. .
I left my horse's side just to run over to you and do Heaven knows what. When I got there, you looked me right in the eye, and I just. ..crumbled. ..
...—Well, the details aren't really all that important; all I know is that there was way too much feeling in that look for that to have been a hallucination to me at the time, so I didn't come back down to Earth until the last minute. I finally realized I was losing my mind after one blink replaced your face with Rapunzel's. The second blink removed the vision entirely, qualifying the whole experience as a prelude to my nervous breakdown. Somehow, though, it felt real. I'm having a hard time saying that I completely imagined it, but whether the whole experience was paranormal or psychological, I didn't linger on it; I swallowed my feelings and kept going.
When I got to Ragnar's frigate, he and his guards were morbidly polite. Violence isn't in my chromosomes, but the thought of taking him out right there almost prevented me from thinking straight the whole time he sat across from me asking whether I liked ginger or honey in my tea. The only thing that stopped me from cracking his skull wide open was my better judgement. Had I assassinated him, then I would've been ending my life even sooner than need be, so I opted to listen to what terms he wanted to negotiate. Besides exposing Krämer and the Kiribati sacrifices, this demon openly told me that he planned on sparing Arendelle's volunteers over Corona's children, reducing Corona to a puppet state, burning the infectees, "breeding" the young Coronian girls with his men to "promote multiculturalism," and shipping a portion of indentured servants from Corona to the Southern Isles.
I immediately blacked out and went in for the kill, but he got to my neck much faster than I did his. Two of his men hit me, kicked me, and then pinned me against the wall afterwards. Ragnar pressed his sword against my thigh and repeated his evil intentions into my ear. I'm going to leave out what he whispered about you for your own sake and just say that it wasn't anything a woman should hear. It's definitely enough to make my blood boil just by thinking about it.
I was very lucky to be thrown off the ship with a cut on my face and nothing else. In the aftermath, he made his terms clear: either I cede Corona to the Southern Isles, or I subject Rugen to a massacre. I had until sundown to make my decision. He additionally wanted me to write you a letter about something that would've completely destroyed Arendelle's relations with Corona. There was also a resource he mentioned in the middle of all that ranting — something he wanted to extract from either the ground or the old mines in Rugen, but I was too banged up by that point to hear all of it.
Some of my old pub pals helped me get back to the island when I couldn't make it any further than the Snuggly Duckling. Once I got back, I rounded up as many people as I could while Constantine handled Krämer. I didn't want to make this choice for or without Corona, but Corona chose to fight. We spent the daylight hours planning strategies, removing Arendelle's volunteers from the picture, releasing prisoners to expand the battalion, evacuating Rugen villagers to either the island or Gustrow's adits, and hiding Isolde in the castle's panic room. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done fast enough; Hohendorf's takedown was put into action before we could blink.
Since Maximus is too old for battle, I stayed on the frontier with Pegasus to take the harder hits for my men. One of the advantages we relied on, besides the Southern Isles having an infamously puny little army, was knowing our way around the forest compared to Ragnar's men, so we did have the element of surprise. Our swordsmen were also better trained, which would explain why they needed Corona's army to be cut in half before they invaded us. I daresay that the snow even gave them a supernaturally tougher time than it did us. Ragnar strangely never ordered his soldiers to use their matchlocks on my battalion after they began to have trouble.
I honestly think Ragnar found our determination too amusing to "end us so soon" with firearms, but we tried to do nothing more than physically disable his men without taking their lives. As the conflict began to spread, I found out too late that they had gotten a head start on burning quarantines in Rugen before I ever met up with Ragnar; it was possible that they started when they first docked. Your volunteers were safe, but very few survivors of mine were left behind in their wake. The monster himself never showed his face while all of those bodies were being burned until I called him out of his ship. He emerged in his armor to challenge me to a duel.
We fought it out for an entire hour. Although I was the most drained, I got the upper hand because he had no sense of agility. What I didn't do, and absolutely should have done, was kill him. What I stupidly chose to do was give him an ultimatum. Ragnar took my kindness for weakness without hesitation, because while he was on his way back home that morning, his admirals surrounded the capital's fleets at midnight.
His frigates did open fire on my castle, so Vice Admiral Oslo may have lied to you in order to keep you from doing exactly what the Storting doesn't want you to do: come to me. I came down with something that I haven't been able to get out of my system due to how overcrowded the capital is right now, and I'm sure they don't want you getting sick. None of Ragnar's allies or brothers ever made an appearance to finish Corona off, though it could've been that none of them had time to, because Arendelle showed up immediately after our offense disintegrated. Corona's fleets and pirate ships did everything they could to block the frigates before that point. There was just only so much that could be done.
My castle wasn't destroyed, but one cannonball managed to bulldoze through the mural tower and kill the children who couldn't get out of the way fast enough, which killed me. That was the moment when I dropped down onto my knees and blanked out. I started looking for my wife in the crowd of screaming faces as a confirmation of our time to go. Instead, I saw a blue snowflake float (not fall) in front of me before flying away like a feather in the breeze.
Again, maybe I imagined it, but if there's a chance that there was some part of you with me in that snow, then thank you for offering me that much. I have spent most of my healing period with my pillow when I haven't been trying to finish this letter to you. I suppose I have to begrudgingly thank Aloysius at some point, but the only person to thank in my mind right now is you. I finally understand that I can't keep doing this alone. When I say that, I'm not talking about the politics, the kingdom, or the finances.
I'm talking about acting like Rapunzel not being here hasn't completely broken every bone in my body. I'm talking about watching people take their last breaths in my bloody arms. I'm talking about putting on a brave face for the people who have given up on themselves. I'm talking about trying to raise my daughter to be the strong little woman she's meant to be. I'm talking about being the last drop of sunlight that Corona has left.
Never have I ever wanted to need anyone as much as I need you right now, but I hope you'll be willing to let me reintroduce myself to you with a little more integrity this time. I'm well aware that your parliament most likely won't lift their ban on you and Anna, especially not after how badly your powers were affected by the Bovi Fever. I honestly think they're trying to secure their own safety over yours, but I hold nothing against you for not being here in the flesh. I strongly believe you were in some magical way, anyway. Even if I just flat out lost my mind on that bridge, I still appreciate you immensely for allowing your navy to stay here with us. I didn't think anyone would come at all, but you did.
You finally did.
And I thank you. I thank you so very much. No matter what happens from this day forward, repaying you is something I will make happen, Elsa. There's just one more thing that I'd like to run by you, and then I'll let you rest:
In the event that you and Anna would have to raise my daughter, I need you to understand that Isolde is a very special little girl, and she's very sensitive about being special. If you could teach her how to be a confident young woman, then that would mean the world to me.
I of January, 1850
Hopefully still your dearest cousin,
Eugene, why you make me sad?
The last two chapters needed some minor reconstructive surgery. Actually, all of them did, so I cleared up the horrible structure and fine-tuned their voices for a final (director's?) cut since we're near/at the end. Why am I only aware of much needed nips and tucks days/months after things are off the operation table? Talk about Dysmorphic Disorder. I might find an issue with this letter, but I digress.
Chapter 35: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Jan. 4th)❄༻
To My Dearest Cousin,
...I was terrified, but I'm not anymore. I sincerely wanted to be the person running down that dock to pull you into my arms, Eugene; I felt that lonely part of you needing me, the part that I'm always telling you to feel instead of hide behind, "Everything's fine." I thought by not being there this time that I had given you yet another good reason to distrust me. I honestly did try my hardest to find other ways to reach out to you ― ways that I wasn't sure would work until you wrote back. Still, I don't think I've done nearly enough to deserve being called your savioress.
I'm so proud of you for still managing to be so brave, Eugene. You truly are the king that Frederic knew you would be. I haven't felt this many emotions in one sitting in a long time ― ones that are happy and sad simultaneously. Whenever I get like this, I always end up ruining the paper, so I'm sorry about the stains again. I'm just glad you and Isolde are alive, as well as sad that it took another disaster for us to find our tongues again.
You don't have to repay me for anything in any lifetime. You are still my cousin before you are my ally, and Corona is still Arendelle's brother before it is her trade partner. All I've ever really wanted from you was for you to open up without shutting me out or hiding behind a false front, both of which are more harmful to you than they are protective. Being taught from a young age that the world isn't safe and people can't be trusted will obviously not be easy to taper off. With all of the treachery and character assassinations that have been taking place, I've always understood on some level why you don't trust people easily; I've always understood why you conceal your emotions sometimes. I just hope you understand now that my loyalty is unconditional.
I can take care of your shelters and meal centers. That won't be a problem, but you'd have to manage them differently because overcrowded and unhygienic depots can spread diseases. I need to know how many centers were built in every village, what their square feet were, which locations they were built in, what kind of sanitary service uniforms the servers were required to wear, and how the interiors were designed, so I'll be sending someone to gather that information for me in order to make the necessary changes. I'm also being told that fever, dysentery, backcountry smallpox, marasmus, and small surges of Bovi Fever flares are the main ailments that were left behind after Ragnar brutally murdered the Bovi quarantines. I'll provide rehydration solutions and whatever else that is within my capacity to, but I need you to tell me what you were sick with as well.
Since you haven't spoken about Isolde's health, I feel in my heart that she's hale. My parliament, on the other hand, is not convinced. What I'm worried about is how long both of you can hold on. An overcrowded population that forces the sick, injured, and healthy into one spot is too dangerous for you and your daughter to live amongst. My private secretary advised me to wear gloves before I opened your letter, so my men think you have something pestilential, though I don't think that's the case, given your ability to write so steadily.
You were completely right about my subjects trying to protect themselves from me more than they are trying to protect me from Corona. The reason why they're afraid of me becoming infected is because they don't know what will happen to my powers or the kingdoms. Arendelle so far refuses to fund a rescue crew until you and Corona are no longer "a contagious threat to the royal family or Arendelle." I'm fighting to not tear down the entire monarchy as I write, but my composure isn't holding out. Though it's not enough to calm me down, promises have been made for Arendelle to participate in the rehabilitation of Corona; thankfully, I might be able to find another way around my limitations before then...
As for the Westergaard brothers, I would have been just as skeptical as you were, but I do believe Prince Aloysius and King Kasimir were forced to obey King Ragnar until his treatment of them became unbearable. I wasn't able to do much except keep in contact with them after I promised to dig into their family history, but they needed more coaxing than I originally thought. Neither of them fessed up to the Kiribati scandal or the timeline of Ragnar's plot until he was already on your shores. Although Aloysius refused to tell me how far Hans was pulled into this, I think the part Hans played was more mutual than the parts Kasimir and Aloysius did. Kasimir has now sacrificed his loyalty to the Southern Isles by donating to my fundraiser for Corona.
The Southern Isles is presently under the custody of Prince Palmar because Ragnar has not returned home since Arendelle docked in your harbor. My vessels never crossed his ship on their way to you, so it's still undetermined whether he took a different route or got lost at sea during a storm; I think it was the latter. I doubt that any of the princes will want to resume his suicide mission after they become king. I refuse to wage war on the Isles because family men who act on behalf of the Crown are not the evil overlords, but I also refuse to leave the waters open for them; what's left of the Crown will be seeing me in the flesh very shortly.
Keep pushing your ideas, Eugene. Don't give up. If they know what's good for Corona, then they won't question you. The losses Corona have endured are too great to shun the sovereign's plans now. It should be easier to win political support without Krämer in the picture to twist anyone's arms.
Isolde is too young to understand what's happening, but I don't think it would've been bad for you to have let her know about your choice to leave that night. What if she had woken up just to find out that her father was missing? Children are perceptive; they can feel when something bad is happening, so it's a whole lot more devastating for them to be lied to about an emergency until the last minute. I'm not telling you how to parent her or anything of the sort. I'm just speaking from the perspective of a daughter.
Your eyes weren't playing tricks on you that night. I can't control Mother Nature's winters so much as I can replicate and manipulate it. This is why the thawing of my snow can bring back life. Every snowflake is an extension of myself. Lately, I've been trying to take that connection further by practicing a new kind of homing spell with different companions.
Anna likes to call them, "snow bees." They're snowflakes that move in swarms, though it takes mental concentration for hours on end to keep them steady under my navigation (their attention spans are annoyingly short). I've tried to perfect this spell for a very long time, but my connection never lasted long enough, so they would always melt before they reached Corona. Less than ten hours prior to you walking out onto that bridge, I had blown my snow bees into the offshore wind that circulates between Arendelle and Corona in my hope of getting them to be my eyes. That way, I'd not only be able to see what your country's winters were like, but how you were holding up as well.
I actually didn't know about the invasion by this point; I just had you on my mind. The vision my snow bees relayed to my brain was too foggy for me to make anything out until they reached your castle spires. They couldn't find you in your windows, which were all curtained anyway, so they flew down to the bridge. I don't know how you were able to see me in the swarm, but I'd like to believe that because they were just scattered remnants of myself, you wanting me there created a sort of joint connection, causing the snow bees to project a transparent likeness of myself. It sounds silly, but I can't find any other explanations for it.
Even though you said I looked you in the eye, I never saw you at all. I could just about make out the silhouette of a man with broad shoulders, but I couldn't tell if it was you. Instead, I felt this strange warmth spreading throughout my body. Afterwards, a glowing flower (or sun?) popped into my head. The connection broke as soon as I opened my eyes.
Unlike the other times I would lose connection, my snow bees hit the ground like rocks. The vibe I was getting made me think that the lily was the Magic Golden Flower, yet I still don't have an answer to explain why. I have some ideas, but I'd like to read what you think about it first. What you saw thereafter may have been a hallucination of Rapunzel in the natural snow.
The second I learned about Ragnar's sail, I tried for the hundredth time to regain my connection and create a whiteout on his side of the battlefield. In the end, I was too weak from the first swarm to maintain the whiteout, so I didn't help you as much as you might think. I had to settle for using my own winds to make a steering flow for my fleets in order to get them to Corona faster. I was forced to stop once I realized that I was upsetting the tides too much. I'm guessing that one lone snow bee stayed behind to greet you.
If my council ever found out about me using my powers to manipulate the fight, I would have to forfeit the throne to Anna as promised, but I'm glad that I broke the rules this time. Even if I could only give you so little for a few moments, I wanted you to see that you weren't completely alone. Furthermore, you don't have to put on any face with me except your own. I may not know what it's like to watch children and villagers being slain without mercy in front of my very eyes, but I can keep trying to be there for you by visiting in this form when I have the energy. Maybe I'll be able to consciously manifest and teleport myself to your hallway once I get the hang of things.
After the barriers have been broken, I will lend my hand in raising Isolde as though she is my own daughter, but raising her without you shouldn't even be an option. My job as of right now is to keep her from losing you before your time, and at this very second, she still has an invincible father who can teach her how to be just as strong as he is. Now that I'm made that part clear, I hope you're not trying to tell me that your daughter has gifts like mine. I
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Chapter 36: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Jan. 8th)☀༻
To My Unnecessarily Humble Savioress,
I accidentally dropped some water on the table after I put your letter down, so the bottom got soaked through. I'm sorry about that. My hands have "shaking palsy" symptoms these days. I can only respond to the paragraphs I didn't ruin:
Isolde doesn't have any special powers besides her irresistible charm, but she does have insecurities about who she is. When the time comes for you to meet her (with or without me, Elsa), you'll understand what I mean. I don't intend on going before my time; I just want to have contingency plans laid out. "Invincible father" might be a stretch, but thank you; trying to heal me with flattery is almost working, though I'm not going to let you get away with fighting me on whether you're a savioress or not. If I have to accept being called invincible without complaint, then you have to accept being called an amazing woman without putting up a fuss, Little Missy.
After all, you put up with me for three years. What human being can even begin to brag about that besides my own wife? Let's not forget about how long you've stuck with Corona politically and financially after everyone else told you not to. You deserve much more than cursive letters of praise on some piece of paper, and I want to give or at least show you that one day. I may not currently be in a position to thank you the way I would like, but I hold no ill will towards you whatsoever, so you shouldn't hold any towards yourself.
You're completely accurate about it being damaging to put up a wall, but the wall is there for a very good reason. I can't throw down the drawbridge for anyone and take risks in my situation. I know you're not an "anyone," but you were someone I still needed to feel out. I've never had people I could count on except for Rapunzel, and she didn't come into my life until twenty-six years later. I understand now that you do unconditionally have my best interests at heart and I'm sorry for not giving you my all sooner, because there's a lot that I need to come clean about once we're finally face-to-face...
You know, you really blow my mind; if you could do that for us, then I could die in peace. I'm not sure who told you we had smallpox, but we don't. Everything else you said is right. What I actually have is a sinus infection. The herbalists couldn't put their fingers on it in the beginning. I was also still recovering from battle, so my immune system hasn't been the strongest; it's getting there, though.
Your men are out there working in tandem with mine to get the overcrowding regulated. We're relocating some people to the cay villages behind the capital and treating patients in segregated centers there. Right now we have to make Rugen livable, bless bodies, arrange funerals, and find a way to rebuild what was demolished. Your people are helping with all of that, so mine wanted me to give you their thanks.
I'm going lay it on the line: reading what you just wrote infuriates me because it means that my daughter wouldn't be let in even if she could make it, but I don't have enough energy in my body to cry about it or fight against the Storting. Your parliamentarians are leaving me on a powder keg; I don't have any room to do anything other than come to terms with the harsh reality that I must close this chapter by myself. Since you and Arendelle are at least willing to support me, I have a better shot at pulling through, but I don't plan on forgiving the Storting in the future. As for finding a way around it, I distinctly recall you losing control of the ice ship. If teleportation works, then spectacular, but if it has any side-effects, then don't go for it.
I'm going to pray that Ragnar isn't alive. The Southern Isles could use dirty tricks to stymie Arendelle; sometimes I wonder if Corona was just bait. They might regain some allies just because you defended the "criminal crowners" of Corona. Considering that, I wouldn't get any closer to the remaining brothers than you already have. You don't know how the entire family feels about your intervention and I doubt that they'll show you.
Thank you for always putting things into perspective, Elsa. I'm more confident about taking another stab at my councilmen now. Speaking of Krämer, I decided to have him sentenced to life in prison. My council wanted me to hang him, but I didn't have the heart to do it. They're afraid, however, that he'll find a way to escape. I think I made the right choice on the other hand; do you?
You made a fair point about Isolde. I should've thought about that before I left, especially considering how smart she is. Right now, she hasn't had a moment to let everything soak in because she's been in pain from an ear infection since the sixth. She's had one or two before, but this is the worst it's ever been. Dr. Ingul and Dr. Waldus have been treating it with oil drops and warm towels. It's getting better as time goes on, but there's a lot of discharge; I'm just hoping her canal will be okay after this is over.
So then, it was you. I knew it. I knew I wasn't losing my mind. It's even more astounding to think I actually played a part in your magic somehow. Sadly, I don't know any more about the vision that popped into your head than you do, but it definitely sounds to me like you saw the Magic Golden Flower.
Now that I think about it, maybe it happened because your powers were somehow picking up on the metaphysical sediments of old magic? Not necessarily sediments in me, but traces of the memory. I really don't have a good lead here, but the rock trolls might be able to clear this up for us.Your snow bees are more than welcome to fly into my window for a second reunion. It's the closet I'll ever come to speaking to you directly anytime soon.
Trust me, you helped. We didn't need a second more to surprise Ragnar and turn the battle into our favor. Your whiteout did a terrific job. I've never been a fan of the cold, but I'm a devout kowtower now. Some of my soldiers have converted their beliefs about your magic as well. Learn to give yourself credit where credit is due, because like I said before, you are one amazing woman.
VIII of January, 1850
Chapter 37: ༺❄Dear Eugene (Jan. 10th)❄༻
To My Dearest Cousin,
Did you mention "shaking palsy" as a joke or are you really experiencing symptoms? Don't play with me like that if you're saying it as a joke; you know I don't like staying up all night worrying about you more than I already do. You should have your secretary write to me if you're still too tired to be leafing through papers. Sitting in one place for a long time won't help any cramps or stiff joints you have. For the sake of both of us, be kinder to your body, Eugene.
"After all, you put up with me for three years. What human being can even begin to brag about that besides my own wife?" I guess not very many. If it makes you happy, then I'll graciously accept your sweet talk without complaint. Your statement about "coming clean" worries me a little, though. I'm curious about what you're talking about, but I want you to take your time getting out whatever it is you have to get off your chest.
Right now is a period for recovery and rehabilitation. Repentance can open up a whole new door of stress if, by some chance, I don't take it well or my response offends you. Let's focus on Corona and get through healing you first.
Of course I can take charge. Improving Corona's health care takes precedence over everything else on my schedule. I've already drawn up my own blueprints for what kind of centers I'd like to build. Geometry and Architecture History were my favorite subjects as a child, so I have some erudition. My chief engineers have helped me with the practicability of the designs, too.
What I will say is that the square feet and locations of your centers didn't look too helpful when I finally saw the blueprints your construction workers were given. Allegedly, their brick walls were also improperly mortared and the iron pillars underneath the floor were brittle enough to collapse in due time. One center was placed on an eroding cliff while another was too close to the quarantines. You seemed to have had a decent amount of shelters, but not enough space in them. We're going to change that this month after we've taken care of Rugen; it should help the population issue you're dealing with in addition to making sure your buildings won't fall apart.
If there's anything else you need me to take care of, then your secretary has promised to keep me up to speed. So far you have inoculations, border protection, food, battalions, builders, and doctors arriving in Corona. This is the type of relationship I didn't want Corona to depend on when we first talked about the famine, but there's no turning back now. Arendelle has agreed to financially support Corona until the kingdom can support itself again. I've agreed to emotionally support you and your daughter for life.
Who's treating your sinuses at the moment? Can the Ice Leaf help you with that or was it destroyed during the invasion? If the answer is yes, then you should be constantly hydrating yourself with nothing but sugar-free liquids in order to thin your mucus. Mixing horseradish with apple cider vinegar and lemon juice will clear your passages. Ginger root with tea and turmeric can also help; ask a masque to rub out the sore spots in your body, too.
I sent tea tree oil for Isolde's ear infection this morning. The yellow dock root packaged next to it is for both of you. I'm hoping that her infection wasn't caused by an upper respiratory inflammation, but if Waldus and Ingul never said it was, then that shouldn't be the case. Have them keep me updated on your recoveries, because they haven't written to me in years. How are they managing between all of this chaos?
I have never expected you to forgive the Storting after the travel ban was enacted. I don't forgive it, either. Its members know what I want more than anything, which is to have you in Arendelle, but their fears and my fears aren't similar. At the same time, I understand why my powers are such a big concern for them. However, it won't hurt me or them to attempt teleportation and at least look you in the eye consciously this time I just have to watch my stamina levels while I'm attempting it.
I learned exactly one hour ago that Ragnar has been declared dead. They still haven't found his body, yet his council has decided to arrange a coronation for Prince Palmar. I am going to keep my connections open with King Kasimir and Queen Malmö. They've told me that Aloysius is still in the prison tower and Hans is still living in exile. I haven't heard about any new alliances, but in response to the ultimatum letter I sent to the Isles, I have been begged to make "peace." I'll get some insight into where the prince's head is at to see whether he truly plans on repaying Corona with reparations or adopting his brother's cause. Afterwards, I'll get back to you with what I've gleaned from him.
You made the right decision regarding Krämer. Having another man's blood on your hands is possibly even more traumatizing than seeing people slain before you. You become a direct and deliberate taker of someone's life. You don't want that on your conscience. Krämer has nowhere to run, so I doubt he'll try.
Your guess is as good as mine. I'll make time for an in-depth conversation about it with Grandpabbie. My snow bees are going to visit you again tomorrow night. Just make sure there are no servants in the room with you. Telling me what floor you're on would help me find you a little faster.
"Learn to give yourself credit where credit is due, because like I said before, you are one amazing woman."
Thank you, Eugene. I'll hold those words close to my heart.
X of January, 1850
P.S. Thanks for still keeping my blanket safe.
I guess I overestimated how far my snow bees could travel without going a little wacky on me after that last journey. They followed your servant into your bed chamber's hallway and slipped under the door at midnight, but I was blind to what they were picking up on. I tried again, but the same thing kept happening. I think I probably have too many conflicting thoughts in my head to fully concentrate on keeping the connection clear. I also haven't really been taking proper care of myself to make meditating for countless unflinching hours realistic, so there's that stupid mistake, but I have even more to impart:
Palmar was crowned last week. He swore up and down to me that he wanted to "make up for what his brother did" by helping Arendelle repair the damage Ragnar had left behind. Aloysius sent me a letter almost instantly saying that it was a lie. Based on his comments, Palmar was plotting to regain Arendelle's trust, gain access to Corona via "charity work," and secretly assassinate you by setting up an accident. I have my doubts about his credibility because Aloysius is withholding things from me no matter how much he claims that he has spies who tell him about what goes on in the castle, but I know I can't be quick to brush him off, either.
Aloysius went on to say that Palmar, "has recently accumulated many friends who are in favor of Eugene's regicide." He wouldn't tell me the names of these so-called allies because he doesn't know, apparently. If everything he said is true, then you're still in great danger. Palmar knows that Arendelle's allies aren't under any legal obligation to help my soldiers if they are attacked for protecting another kingdom. If he ever tried to use these "friends" to attack my battalions in Corona, then that would provoke all of Arendelle.
This leaves me wondering what the truth is. Whom can I rely on for that truth? Does Palmar want to herd Arendelle and Corona into a corner for these "friends" to have a go at us all at once? Or does he just want you dead? Was Corona bait the whole time?
Neither Aloysius nor Kasimir seem to know what Palmar's real motivations are; Kasimir says that he's not even communicating with his brothers anymore. Despite my public persona, I'm doing everything I can to avoid a war with the Southern Isles. I want to keep more husbands, brothers, uncles, and sons from being selfishly killed for the Crown's causes. I figured that crossing your border was enough to ward off Ragnar's frigates without violence, and it was. Now it feels like even with Arendelle patrolling your borders, the Southern Isles might keep trying to find ways to outperform Prince Hans.
Whether Palmar's plan is to avenge Ragnar's name or repent, I don't know, but I'll find out soon enough. The Kingdom of the Southern Isles is in close range for my snow bees.
XVIII of January, 1850
Asking you to stay out of harm's way,
As you can see, I'm getting a bit tired of it and lost steam, (and if there is something you see that you don't like because it contradicts something else, then I apologize; I'm assuming that was the case with one sub due to the unsubbing), so I'm trying to end the fic by or before this weekend.
Chapter 39: ༺☀Dear Elsa (Mar. 19th)☀༻
I am incredibly sorry for getting back to you this late. You've probably been worried sick about us and your gyrfalcon (who happens to be a rather curious choice of messenger bird, I must admit), but we've kept him and ourselves well fed. I'm being forced to make this short because Corona's winter has been beating the skin off my back. Your packages and advice were miracle-workers, but the nonstop funeral ceremonies, village renovations, and council meetings are taking their toll mentally, emotionally, and physically on all of us; I myself am going in and out with common colds, stomach flues, migraines — you name it. I haven't been infected by anything that would put my life at risk, but my immune barriers aren't getting stronger.
It's not like my own subjects have been helping me pull through. My retrenchment proposal still isn't getting past the door of my council room. I get ganged up on every other Monday. All three "councils" (rhe King's Council, the Council of the Realm, and the People's Council) appear to be confident about depending on you to take care of the country's food and shelter needs, so retrenching isn't on their minds. I keep trying to explain to them why putting so many feet on your shoulders is by far the worst idea they've ever steamrolled, but once again, my suggestions are unpopular with the nobles, and you know how much unpopularity equates trouble for us kings and queens...
On half-decent days, I would go out to Rugen to help our constructors build your mind-blowing visions from the ground up. I'm fully aware that it doesn't sound like the smartest thing to do, but I felt like I needed to get out there and show the people that I wasn't hiding in the castle while they were wallowing in Corona's graveyards. At that time, I was in mint condition and had plenty of security patrolling the grounds. I stopped picking up hammers after I started getting sick on a weekly basis. The people who were getting me sick with colds and whatnot were actually my ministers, not my villagers, so the fresh air seemed to be treating me better than the walls of my own castle. I wish the Ice Leaf was still available, but the monolith's area was set on fire during the massacre.
The only good thing happening to me on a personal level is Isolde's progress. Compared to mine, her health has improved exponentially. I'm not only talking about her ear infection; I'm talking about her overall. Maybe there's more magic in Pabbie's remedies than we thought, because at the rate she's going, Isolde will be just as healthy as any other kid. Beyond that, a healthy queen.
With the exception of your last letter, I'm nonetheless alarmed by the fact that you haven't written to me or checked up on me at all since January. The same goes for "seeing" you. The last time I saw your snow bees was on the ceiling of my bedroom, and that was nights before your letter. I was completely caught off guard, no doubt, especially after they melted on my quilt, but I was expecting another reunion to occur over the months. I've been pacing my room with bated breath every night since then.
I don't know whether your know this or not, but I can tell the difference between your blue snowflakes and actual snow, which hasn't fallen in weeks. If, for some reason, you were ever unable to communicate with me, I figured I would at least catch a glimpse of your snow bees at some point in time. That never happened, so now my instincts are telling me that you got in too deep with these Westergaards and can't find your way out. Your admirals haven't confirmed my suspicions, but I can't put the thought out of my mind. I can't help feeling like I need to get up and do something to actually help you with whatever it is you need.
To make me feel worse, I had a gruesome nightmare about you and the brothers last night. I've lost count of how many times I've held my head underwater this morning due to that nightmare. I understand that it has no bearing on current events, but it was a gruesome reminder that the brothers will always have ulterior motives. That's not the only thing bothering me right now, though. I've been told time and time again by your admiral that you're safe at home in Arendelle, and I know you write on behalf of Anna to shorten my reading time, but shouldn't she be writing on your behalf when you can't?
Why are we caving into another landslide? Why haven't I heard from you, Anna, or your secretary in months? What the hell is going on?
If you really want my opinion on Palmar and his bounty hunt for my — our heads — I'm far less afraid of him and these mysterious "allies" than I am of Aloysius. I know you said you don't fully trust Aloysius, but you wrote more about Palmar's motivations from the perspective of Aloysius than you did your perspective of Aloysius's incredibility. Hasn't he already lied about his impending death? How can we skate over the fact that Aloysius's angle is probably the real trap here? What proof does Kasimir have to back Aloysius up if he hasn't contacted Palmar since the invasion, anyway?
Aloysius warned you about Ragnar at the last minute. While I'm glad it still got you here, can we stop and ask ourselves what it is he thinks he's getting out of helping you help me, his "love rival?" What reason does he have to care about me and Corona? You? Let's just brood on that for a second: you.
Don't forget that this is still the same man who asked you to sleep with him because he couldn't do a good deed without getting something from you in return. Not everyone has the little bit of good in them that you're fighting to find. Rapunzel had a heart like yours, but even she was brutally betrayed by people who had nothing in them except black souls. You, on the other hand...your motivations seem to be a little bit different from hers. You make me think you empathize so strongly with "fallen angels" because you're trying to prove some kind of point to yourself and everyone else.
I know I'm crossing that red line again, but I can't lie to you about my thoughts. I can't stand aside and act like your silence is not pushing me to the breaking point, either. I don't mind at all if you freeze me to death for what I wrote. I just need you to write back — point, blank, period. Then we can deal with these new threats by planning together, not apart.
XIX of March, 1850
To our PUSSIANT and BENIGN King of Corona,
I, Baldor Håakonsson, have chosen to reassign myself to the task of reading and responding to your final letter of address on Queen Elsa's behalf. Like Your Majesty, the martyr whom you so treasure has weathered sporadic ailments arising from poor self-maintenance and paraphysical disorders. Your last two exchanges have led me to believe that these relapses were aggravated by routine "snow bee meditation." To nullify your suspicions, I can confirm that Her Majesty has not held audience with King Kasimir of Norrlind in five weeks. I must still beseech Your Majesty to respect the fact that Queen Elsa's duties beyond you hamper her efficiency to write letters with a steady hand, so please do not chastise Her Grace further.
As of the hour, Her Majesty is in her sister's care, who is also experiencing hardships of her own, such as the undisclosed likelihood of her infertility. These odds have gone unaccepted by her optimism, and while they sting her consort's ego in comparison, he hypocritically harbors no special predilection for children. Come what may, Princess Anna's marriage to her low ranking consort stunts the line of succession. Perhaps Your Majesty's noble blood allowed Corona to endow you with the erstwhile king's trust assets, but Norden countries thrive on political alliances. Our constitution restricts the couple to a morganatic arrangement that underlines the unfortunate nothing his name brings to the marriage; therefore, the matter of male preference primogeniture falls onto Queen Elsa's shoulders.
The activity concerning the Southern Isles has quieted. King Palmar has withdrawn his offer to assist Arendelle in the Storting's recovery plan for Corona. Information about revenge plots and regicide partners has not yet unfurled. Fate alone can not guarantee a future for Corona, so Arendelle has voted to ensure one for your country in the shape of two proposals.
Let it be bellowed without condescension that the love you hold for Her Majesty is one that has been praised and envied by many at my table. It spumes from your words and colors hers with hues of quivering passion and verve. Arendelle's grandfathers bless you for loving Her virgin mother so indiscriminately and completely, but now Arendelle must implore you to aid a greater cause. Since there is no duer debt than His Majesty's promise to repay Our Mother the Queen, Arendelle has set out to reacquaint you with Her Majesty's proposition. May your love for Corona dictate your answer as Queen Elsa's love for Arendelle had determined hers three years ago.
XVIII of May, 1850
The Prime Minister of Arendelle,
Petition for Marriage
We the Delegations of the STORTING & PEOPLE'S COUNCIL,
have signed the following petition for the union between
QUEEN ELSA of Arendelle and KING EUGENE of Corona
The delegations have severally agreed and resolved to concur in measures as might best strengthen and secure the internal interests of Arendelle and Corona. Although such laws have been amended by our polities because the subject is eld, our societies covenant that if a woman dies having no children in her marriage, her kinswoman must marry the widower and let him go inside her to raise up offspring for her. If a woman dies leaving young children behind in her marriage, her kinswoman must marry the widower and raise up her offspring for her. This conjugality between Queen Elsa of Arendelle and King Eugene of Corona, united with the prospective conjugality between the Storting and the People's Council, will reward the contract between Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert with preservation, prosperity, and posterity.
Signed, on behalf of the Storting, by
Magnus Lagabøte (Chairman)
Kolbein Stoltenberg (Deputy Chairman)
Baldor Håakonsson (Prime Minister)
Signed, on behalf of the People's Council, by
Sigwalt Liebermann (High Councillor)
Matthias Steiner (Deputy H. Councillor)
Hänel Constantine (First Lord)
When politicians troll the eff out of you.
Chapter 41: ༺THE END (edited)༻
This author note has a new footnote as of May 31st.
A few spoilers:
(*) However the characters perceive reality does not mean it is reality. For instance, the Prime Minister and the like are trolling hard in the last chapter. Their interpretation of "romance" is completely based on their own perception.
(*) Eugene and Elsa are unreliable narrators (as is the Prime Minister). However they have claimed to feel or view one another does not mean it is so. Both have actually lied about some things, particularly their opinions about each other or certain events.
Thank you for staying on this rocky ride, because I almost fell off. Never ever write stuff when you don't have a plan or relationship with politics whatsoever, because this and Indentured (which is a bigger mess) wrote themselves all the way through. Thanks to that, I'm fighting to not fly over to Indentured and just scrap the entire thing so I can "start over" (with better characterization, no doubt). The issue with the latter is trying to build a rapport between how the characters felt in MDC and how they feel now, which -- due to Indentured coming first -- is not immune to creating flat out inconsistencies, even within the actual plot. Working inside the borders of a simple "two characters who don't want to get married meet for the first time" prompt challenge placed more limitations on me than I should've entertained, so the plot drivers did not make an ideal post-canon series for me; if I had followed my natural instincts, Elsa would've been present and well-loved from jump...but everything birthed this, so...
Anyway, thanks again to everyone who reviewed, especially @betagyre! She's the reason why I completed this rush-job, because let me tell you, I actually have a terrible tendency to forget the plot devices and little details in my own fics while writing them. She stayed on top of them.
And just to insert some humor, I found this hilarious live blog about My Dearest Cousin a while back and it blew my hair back!
I ended up putting a "reconstruction" notice on Indentured, after all.
Chapter 42: Amendments vs. Deletion
The message below is a copy of the discussion that I had with the wonderful @TacitLady:
I lost my passion for UotC on the cusp of this year, in part due to my own endless string of family deaths, and mostly because of plot crises. Although a personal union was going to be introduced after Eugene stepped into Arendelle, a political scientist told me that the consideration of a political union via marriage is "preposterous," so I started to bash my head into a wall for adding that subplot in the story. They also said that Isolde should've died in order to not only make Eugene's marriage to Elsa more believable, but his own elevation to King of Corona. I thought that they were right and said to myself, "Well, then what's the point of this story?" His perspective just made me want to delete everything out of sheer embarrassment.
I'd been waiting to mess up badly somewhere, and with the prompt's premise already being a huge stretch because of the fuzzy rift between Elsa and Rapunzel, I didn't want to keep writing something that didn't feel believable in any other area - politically, canonically, or otherwise. I have almost deleted the series five times. I was on the verge of doing so some weeks ago until I reread MDC recently and thought, "there are a lot of emotions running through this; I can't delete this." What I've chosen to do instead is put a reconstruction notice on Indentured while I work on getting things in order behind closed doors. Some layers of My Dearest Cousin have been retouched.
The character names and kingdoms that were given by the new isolated canon spin-offs of Frozen and Tangled have also been added to MDC, (don't be fooled, however. I find almost everything else about Tangled Before Ever After and A Frozen Heart annoyingly unbelievable. I'm specifically unhappy with the deconstruction of Eugene and Hans in both material). I've retouched enough to where I'm not going to retouch MDC again unless bad grammar jumps out at me, so I seriously want to apologize if you've been seeing revision blurbs in your AO3 history; I'm through now.
Anyone who has read MDC after August 27th won't find anything different past the new Elizabethan letter format:
XXV of December, 1846
Keeping you in my heart,
The reconstruction notice on Indentured will be deleted on the same day that all fifteen chapters of Indentured have been officially cleaned up in one swoop, which will be announced in an actual update to the fic for anyone who hasn't been driven away by me yet. The edited chapters are going to be posted on my FF.net one Friday at a time in comparison. I know that I'm going to be adding new material and more feeling to the first chapters. I'm just currently in a tug-a-war between revising the story and actually rewriting it, since I still like the terrorist subplot. In between that time, I hope that I can perhaps write pre-Indentured one shots so that my interest can stay fresh. Some one shots might just be me getting an idea or impulse to write something that won't happen anytime soon in UotC off my chest, (I.E. glimpses of Eugene's marriage to Elsa some years after their wedding).
Truthfully, I almost reconsidered deleting Isolde to make Eugene's crowned position and political vulnerability look more legitimate, but the idea depresses me, because Eugene would not be the person he is in MDC if I made Isolde Rapunzel's last stillborn. There would be no room for jokes in Eugene's letters; there would be no room for listening to Elsa; there would be no man who says he can't shut down and be the king/husband/father he's meant to be. There would be no room for glimmers of happiness anywhere. I truly think that Eugene would curl up into a ball and never see daylight for a year. I can't portray a man that broken; everything I love about writing my favorite Tangled character would go down the drain.
Because I don't want to delete Isolde, I decided to draft my own Crown Matrimonial contract that elevates Eugene to "King Eugene" (at Rapunzel's behest) if Rap dies with or without heirs, rather than only if she dies without heirs. I felt like that could work because I wanted Rapunzel to have an absolute monarchy during her reign, something that is greatly altered in the coronation oath Eugene takes for his independent reign (regardless of his traditional right to have the last word on Acts of Union being kept intact). The fact that Corona's parliament grants Rapunzel's wish, but still cuts down some of Eugene's powers once the contract is fulfilled, really underscores how dishonest Eugene's subjects are, along with how much he knelt to this subjugation due his own insecurities about being king. This is one new plot device that has been added to MDC, but it's only vaguely mentioned because I wanted the "revised" Indentured to be the platform for elaboration. Eugene's contract would create another direct parallel to UotC Elsa, who also took an oath that conserved some unique aspects of her powers while subjugating her to her government because she was both a woman and isolated for years.
The heirs of body situation, I suppose, is not as illogical as I thought it was after reading what the political historian had to say. I realize now that kings and queens were made out of people who were sometimes mentally ill or months away from death due to their poor health, but I think that, if there was an option to have a healthy child or five as spares, ones whose abilities to survive pregnancy or produce a long, thriving line of heirs weren't slim in the council's eyes, then a kingdom would take the opportunity to make that happen. At least, that's how Corona and Arendelle feel in my universe. I would just have to really capitalize on Isolde's (fictional) immune disorder like I have her physical deformity, along with the, "Isolde probably won't outlive Anna" thought that is held by Eugene's council.
I still can't help but wish a political union could come out of this series instead of a personal union, though. I feel like the benefits Corona need would be better given by completely merging into Arendelle's economy right now, not when Elsa and Eugene have a male heir to take the crown of both kingdoms aka parliaments. I don't totally know if a personal union delivers the financial salvation that Corona is desperate to receive, much like what Scotland wanted from England. I considered a dual monarchy. What do you think?
Anyway, enough of my chuntering. I posted a preview of Indentured's Ch. 16 that I had written back when I was still writing an update in December, as well as a preview of the rewritten prologue from sometime ago.