Winter had reached the fjord that the Northuldra and Kingdom of Arendelle both shared and resided on. Slivers of icicles hung from the bare branches in the Enchanted Forest. The Earth Giants woke up every morning with a fresh sheet of snow on their rocky and bouldered bodies. Preferring the warmth in their huts to the growing cold outside, the nightly chats at the campfires in the Northuldra encampment dispersed earlier and earlier, as the sun lowered sooner and sooner each passing day.
The dawn broke, ushering in a new day for all the people. In a cluster of Northuldra huts that were all alike in shape and size, was Honeymaren’s hut, where she was sleeping. She was curled on her side under her fur blanket. She stirred slightly, her internal clock telling her it was time to rise and seize the day. Her eyes slowly opened, blinking away the grogginess of the morning. She fought the urge to turn over and whisper to the universe for five more minutes to doze. It was unusual for her to feel like she didn’t want to get out of bed. In fact, she loved herding the reindeer, especially the young ones because they had an extra chipper spring in their steps that always made her happy to be with them.
But today, she was abnormally tired. She closed her eyes, succumbing to the little voice in her head that said to be rebellious today. She rolled over and surprisingly, felt her arm drop onto a lump under her fur covers.
Oh. The lump was another person. Her eyes popped open and Elsa’s soft face came into view. Her silver hair cascaded over her shoulder and onto the blanket. Her eyelids were shut, and she was breathing in and out at a gentle rhythm.
How long could Honeymaren stare and count Elsa’s freckles before the woman would stir? She thought back to the night before and attributed her sleepiness that morning to the fact that she and Elsa had been up talking until very late in the night. While sitting around the campfire, Elsa had been entertaining her with stories about Ahtohallan, until it had gotten too cold outside for Honeymaren to bear. She smiled, remembering the conversation from the night before.
The Night Before
Honeymaren and Elsa sat side by side in front of the fire. Bruni danced around in the flames, happy to be there with his friends.
“You’re away for hours at Ahtohallan and I’ve always wondered what you do there? Isn’t it… lonely?”
Elsa smiled, “No, it’s peaceful. Ahtohallan is the source of our world’s magic. Sometimes, I go there to recharge. Other times, I like to meditate and listen to the spirits. The Forest has needs that it can’t say with words. Ahtohallan helps me to connect us to our home more.
And there are also times-,” Elsa giggled. “Ahtohallan has a Hall of Memories. At times, I go there just to watch Anna punch Prince Hans in the face again and again.”
Honeymaren returned Elsa’s smile. “Can you keep an eye on your sister through Ahtohallan? How far back do the memories go?”
“As long as something is in the past, I can see it. But to answer your question, no I don’t spy on my sister!” Elsa pushed Honeymaren’s shoulder lightly.
Honeymaren chuckled, “That’s not what I meant. I know you miss her…”
At that, Elsa looked down and got a pensive twinkle in her eye. “Of course. But I fully trust Anna. Arendelle is in good hands. If I really want to see her, she’s not too far away as long as I have Nokk. There are memories with Anna that I love to think about.” Elsa hugged her knees to her chest. “But I did… spend much of our childhood pushing her away…”
“Elsa…” Honeymaren gently put her fingertips under the woman’s chin and coaxed her to meet her eyes. “Your sister would do anything for you. She’s forgiven you to the moon and back.”
Elsa looked at Honeymaren for awhile before the corner of her lips quirked up, just a bit. “I know… I have to remind myself that I’m not as bad as my worst mistakes. Thank you for reminding me of that today.”
Elsa’s smile widened and Honeymaren mirrored her expression. Their foreheads touched briefly, and Elsa sighed at the contact.
The cold had been creeping up and while it didn’t bother Elsa, it did get to Honeymaren. As she jumped up, she pulled Elsa with her. “Let’s go to my shelter. I want to hear more stories about your magical glacier.”
“It’s not my glacier…” Elsa’s words trailed off into the night as they made their way through the encampment.
Honeymaren sat up and stretched her arms and back. She felt her muscles loosen up and beckon her to move into action. As she was about to get out of bed, she saw Elsa finally crack an eye open.
“Hmm… hi,” said Elsa as she rubbed at her eyes. Her long eyelashes fluttered as she blinked, adjusting to wakefulness.
“Hi. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. I admit, not much is left from my time as queen but the habit of rising early remains.”
“A good habit to have.”
“Mhmm,” Elsa hummed. “Tell that to my sleepyhead sister. Even as queen she asks for five more minutes every morning.” Elsa sat up too and slid her hands through her hair, trying to bring order to the messy mop on her head. “What are your tasks today, Honeymaren?”
“Well…” She looked up for a second to ponder. “I’m supposed to herd the reindeer and help Ryder with the fishing.”
“Supposed to?” asked Elsa.
“I was thinking… I would like to see Ahtohallan. If you’d be willing to take me?” Honeymaren chanced a look at Elsa’s expression.
“Ahtohallan?” she questioned. “What makes you want to go there?”
Honeymaren shifted quickly to sit on her knees and looked at Elsa head on. “It’s just, the way you describe it. You say the air feels different there. Come on, you can’t blame me for being curious.”
“Absolutely not.” Elsa stood.
“The dark sea is too dangerous. I nearly drowned the first time I crossed it,” answered Elsa as she opened the hut door and walked out.
Honeymaren let out a breath that she had been holding.
“Wait!” She leaped out the door after Elsa. She caught up with Elsa’s sauntering form, probably on the way to her own shelter to change her clothes, which Honeymaren sheepishly realized, is something she herself hadn’t done yet.
“Okay, yes, but that was when you didn’t have Nokk,” she threw the words out quickly. “Maybe he could take both of us?” Honeymaren asked with hope. Her heart pounded and she nervously rubbed the back of her neck. She was surprised at how awkward she was feeling at Elsa’s decision. She honestly hadn’t expected Elsa to respond differently, knowing her parents had perished on the Dark Sea. But, in some way, it felt like Elsa wasn’t just rejecting the idea but was also rejecting her. Maybe, deep down, Honeymaren just wanted to do something with Elsa that no one else had before.
“This is not a debate,” said Elsa, gesturing her hand as if to flick the possibility away. “You know it’s too-“
Elsa was cut off as Gale twisted around her, throwing her hair in her mouth.
“Pfffpf- Gale! Stop that!”
Honeymaren covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. “Looks like someone disagrees with you.”
Elsa rolled her eyes. “Gale is just being… Gale.” The two set off walking again. “I promise you that Ahtohallan isn’t as great as it seems. It’s well… cold! And wet! Honestly, you would find it boring. Mostly what I do is just sit and think. And you know it’ll be my fault if something happens to-“
Elsa was interrupted again, this time as a trail of fire shot between her legs.
She yelped as she jumped up, crashing into Honeymaren. “Not you too, Bruni!” exclaimed Elsa. The small creature zoomed by them again.
“Watch the huts, Bruni!” Elsa dragged her hand down her face. This day was not her day.
Honeymaren thought of something. “Wait, you take Bruni with you all the time when you go to Ahtohallan!”
That point startled Elsa, as if a current of electricity went through her body. “Errr, yes, I do… But, you see, Bruni is…” She tapped her chin with her finger. “He’s a spirit!” she said triumphantly. “Just like me and Nokk.”
Honeymaren studied Elsa and crossed her arms. “He’s a salamander. He can barely swim, fire spirit or not.” Almost as if Bruni was on her side, he zipped back to the two women and scampered up Honeymaren’s side to rest on her shoulder. His little tongue stuck out as he peered at the former queen.
Elsa sighed and held her hand out to the fire spirit. He crawled onto her knuckles, padding her skin with his tiny feet. “What do you think, Bruni?” Elsa and the salamander had formed a special relationship since the beginning of her time in the Forest. They could communicate even if Elsa didn’t always understand Bruni’s ways and even if Bruni couldn’t speak.
Bruni jumped up and down on Elsa’s hand. He squeaked and smiled big at her.
Honeymaren smirked, “I’m taking that as positive reinforcement.”
In that moment, Gale made another appearance and spun the snow in a spiral around them. The wind whooshed and lightly twirled their hair. Honeymaren smiled but hugged her arms close, her body chilling at the gusts of wind.
Elsa noticed and quickly called out, “Alright, Gale, I hear you! I did say it was my job to listen to the spirits.” She turned to Honeymaren. “I’ll take you with me to Ahtohallan -“
The other girl beamed and hugged Elsa tightly.
“But you have to promise to keep your arms around me the whole ride!”
Honeymaren blushed slightly. “O-of course,” she said pulling away. “As we always say when teaching the kids to ride the reindeer, a loose grip leads to a short trip.” She chuckled to herself awkwardly.
“Good. Now get out of this cold- you’re going to catch something if you don’t put on some proper clothing.” Elsa and Gale both hastily prodded Honeymaren back to her shelter so that she could get ready.
Yes, Honeymaren loved herding reindeer, but she hadn’t been this excited for a day in quite some time.