People say that the forest was a dangerous place. Wild, heartless, and relentless savages that seek nothing but prey upon the weak dwelled in it. Throughout the years, it was believed that humans wouldn't survive out there alone. Even in groups, it would be difficult.
Amidst the center of that very same woodland was Arendelle, the village of hunters. A wild boar crashing into their walls and eyeing them with dark, hungry glare was a normal occurrence. They had adapted in that way of life by training for survival at a young age. It was kill or be killed.
But there was one individual who never adjusted.
It was Anna, a young redheaded girl.
"I wonder where it's going." Her teal eyes followed the glowing orb as it floated away. It was an odd sight, but it was a welcomed oddity after spending hours in this dark, dreary place. Her companion, a white cub, tackled one of her legs with a suppressed growl. "We'll be fine, Olaf."
Sweat trickled down her forehead despite the chilly air. She had never ventured this far away from the village. She reached for her bags and pockets and patted them for assurance. Good. Her dagger and traps were still there.
Inhaling as silently as she could, she steeled her resolve and narrowed her eyes at that little orb of light. Many books back in the village mentioned it, but people in her town insisted it was only a myth. She believed them solely because she had never seen one before, but now that it was there, she knew what that flickering light within that glow meant. It was described in one of those books.
They were wings.
It was the glow of fairy that came in different colors, depending on the element of the little creature. This one flying around the forest and seemingly looking for something was glowing blue, giving the illusion of a wisp—another mystical being she read from their town's library. She gulped before taking another step towards the tiny being, halting in her tracks when a whimper came from her little friend.
She knelt down to pat the fluffy white fur. "We can't go back now, Olaf. I don't know where we're going, but anywhere is better than the village."
It took a few more coaxing before Olaf's trembling legs relaxed, his ears rising from being tucked away a moment ago. At the same time, the sound of flowing water passed by Anna's ears and urged her to stand up. This side of the forest was vastly unfamiliar. She didn't know where she was and the only thing she could do was to make sure that the fairy's glow did not leave her sight.
Flowing water in the middle of the forest?
Her eyes widened as she came to a conclusion. She had heard about a stream from one of the older hunters. It was some kind of clearing. Depending on the time of day, it could be relatively dangerous. She didn't know what was waiting for her out there.
A tinkling sound caught her ears, causing her heart to jump. Her hand instinctively reached to the hilt of her dagger, feeling relief upon feeling its sturdy handle. A few seconds were met in silence and she was beginning to wonder if it was merely an imagination when the sound was heard again.
The gravity of the situation caught up to her without warning. Following the fairy deep in the forest as a half-hearted hunter was a bad idea. It was probably the worst of her many decisions in her early years in life. But it was too late. There would be time for brooding later. If she ever got out of there alive.
"You know, Olaf, this might not be such a good idea." The cub tackled one of her legs again as if it was telling her 'I told you so'. "But..." She sighed and stared longingly at the place they came from. "It's too dark to go back now."
Another tinkle reached her ears. As she looked ahead, the fairy was flying in circles and leaving glowing specks of dust on its trail. Anna frowned and tilted her head. If she was going to die, she might as well satiate her curiosity with the thing.
With short, reluctant steps, she followed the fairy and welcomed the increasing volume of flowing water until she reached an open clearing. She raised her arm to protect herself from the bright reflection from the river. Seconds later, when her eyes finally adjusted, she was in awe.
There were painted images in books and frames back in the village but nothing would've prepared her from this view. The moon and the stars were reflected on the clear and clean water and little lights float above it. She wanted to take a closer look but was too surprised to even move.
A small yip and a white cub running forward snapped her awake, her breathing stopping for a moment when a part of her feared that the silence would be broken by her four-legged friend's abruptness. Olaf ran towards the compilation of rocks and to the other side.
"I- Is that...?"
The fairy flew towards her at an unforgiving pace; she had to raise both her arms to protect herself from being attacked, cast a spell upon, or doomed to a slow but sure death. None came. Instead, the fairy flew around her in circles.
It stopped in front of her face and it was then that she was able to see it up close. It was a tiny girl with wings. She had seen drawings of them, but they didn't do justice to this glowing beauty in front of her.
Its hair was white and reminded her of a sweet cold delicacy she had the chance of eating as a child. The eyes were blue. It was wearing a white dress that reminded her of a dandelion. Its wings, as she had thought, consisted of intricate lines that glow brighter than the rest of the fairy.
Anna blinked when her nose was tapped.
"Ah- Huh?" She leaned back to look at the being clearly. It was pointing to the other side of the river where Olaf was sitting in front of an unconscious girl. "I- Is she alive?"
The fairy nodded. It flew downwards and grabbed Anna's finger with both hands. Getting the message, she stood and went her way to the other side using the same rocks Olaf jumped to before. Her finger was released and the fairy flew across the stream.
"Is she breathing?" Anna asked while running towards the body. Olaf ran to her direction and yipped. "Good."
The girl was lying on her stomach and Anna couldn't see much of her injuries. She knelt and settled her bag beside her before gently turning the unconscious girl on her back, wincing when she felt how cold and wet the clothing was.
The first thing Anna noticed were the bruises and cuts decorating that pale skin. The girl's hair glowed silver under the moonlight, dirt scattered on it along with snowflake designed pins. Her clothes were dirty with a few cuts, but it could be salvaged with a few patches.
Anna quickly went to unbutton the girl's clothes. She jumped when the fairy tackled her hands away with its body. "H- Hey! She's going to get sick if I don't remove it!" Her heart rate sped up when the fairy regarded her with those glowing eyes before it looked at Olaf. Olaf barked.
The fairy flew out of her way, prompting her to heave a sigh of relief.
When Anna left her village, she never thought that her first patient would be another human being. She had knowledge but no firsthand experience aside from treating her own wounds. She proceeded to remove the girl's clothing while briefly wondering why this particular area in the forest was cold. The curiosity melted away upon seeing the bruises and lashes hidden underneath that clothing.
"Olaf, find me some dry twigs or grass."
The cub did as it was told and disappeared into the forest. While waiting, Anna dried the girl with one of her towels. She pulled out a salve and medicinal herbs from her bag and carefully applied them to the bruises, whispering apologies whenever the girl whimpered in her sleep. Finishing the task, she pulled out a loose tunic and cloak and wrapped it around the girl.
Anna had only finished cleaning the girl's clothes when there was a subtle movement. The fairy zoomed passed her, going to the direction of the unconscious girl. Olaf's excited jumping told her that their patient was stirring awake. Anna spread out the clothes on top of a boulder before checking on her.
The girl's eyes slowly opened and abruptly closed, face twisting in discomfort along with a tiny whimper. Anna smiled and waited, patiently watching the girl try to open her eyes again. After a few more tries, Anna was struck with the same state of awe as when she first saw the stream. Those eyes were the bluest pair she had ever seen. Almost creepily so.
"H- Hi." And, okay, she was nervous. It was one thing that this girl had unusual colored eyes, but Anna had always been bad at socializing with strangers. She had to relax if she didn't want to scare her. The girl's eyes widened and she abruptly stood up only to wince. "Hey, be careful! You're injured."
A shaky, pale hand raised towards her. Anna, not knowing what it meant, thought she saw it glow when the fairy flew and settled itself between them. Another tinkle similar to the previous night was heard, causing Anna to look around again. It continued on but no matter what she does or where she looked, she couldn't find the source until her attention landed on the fairy once more.
It was gesturing wildly with its hands while the girl focused on it and Anna began to wonder. It almost seemed farfetched, silly, and unreal. Then again, fairies were considered myths in her town. Was it also impossible for this fairy to talk and for this girl to understand her? Maybe not. When something wet pressed against her ankle, Anna looked down her foot to see Olaf's wagging his tail around.
Anna blinked as she heard a coherent sentence and looked at the only other person capable of talking there with her. The girl looked tensed and contemplative, the color of her cheeks returning to a healthy shade. Anna raised both her hands, wanting to check the injuries, but decided against it when their eyes met again.
Caught off guard by the sudden gratitude, Anna cautiously lowered her arms. She had questions. The girl's identity for one. Why she was injured and in the forest alone. But first... "You understand the fairy?"
The girl raised an eyebrow and cocked her head. "Fairy?" Anna pointed to the fairy. "Peri is a pixie."
"A pixie? A- Aren't those the same?"
The girl shook her head. "A pixie is smaller than a fairy," she said. "It seemed Peri gave you trouble. I apologize."
"What? No, no! It's no trouble. I was lost and just followed her around." When the girl only looked at her impassively, she decided to look at the pixie instead. "So her name is Peri?" A nod. "I thought fairies... well, pixies, exist only in myths."
Peri proudly let her tinkles be heard again, tiny arms wrapping around her little torso. It looked like it was laughing.
"Myths? Where are you from?"
"I..." She hesitated. Olaf nuzzled one of her legs again and barked out. She smiled and patted his head. "I'm from Arendelle."
The silence that followed her answer was deafening and beginning to feel uncomfortable. She mustered her courage and lifted her head. The girl nodded once their eyes met.
"That is quite the distance," said the girl. "You do not look like a hunter."
"I-I was traveling."
"Peri told me you were the one who treated my wounds."
"S- She told you? So you really do understand her?!" Anna's earlier unease was replaced with wonder and a huge toothy grin stretched across her face. She was right!
"She is my companion." The girl gestured to Olaf. "Like your little fox probably is to you."
"Oh!" Anna exclaimed. "Oh, but I don't really understand Olaf—that's his name. I just guess and then he would tackle or scratch me if I'm wrong."
"Oh?" Pale eyebrows disappeared behind platinum bangs. "How long have you been traveling together?"
"I've known him for two weeks." Anna patted Olaf's head again and frowned slightly. She had to clean him again. "But we've only been traveling for four days." The girl merely nodded. "How are you feeling?"
"Sore." She reached the collar of the tunic. "But I wasn't expecting to wake up."
"I thought I was dead."
Anna was wondering what this girl was doing to receive such huge damage in the middle of a forest and her curiosity only heightened after hearing her words. "What happened to you, anyway? I mean... if you don't mind me asking."
"Not at all. I was in the middle of a mission when I was mobbed by golems. There were more than usual and the last thing I remembered was falling under a bridge."
"You were what?! Golems? In a forest? Mission? Mobbed?"
The girl lifted a hand, capturing Anna's attention. It glowed and conjured a crystal-like shape. If it wasn't for the chill radiating from it, she would think it was indeed a crystal. She wasn't blind, and unless she was already dead, she was certain that it was magic.
"I- Ice m-ma-magic!"
"Is this your first time seeing one?"
Anna nodded fervently, her eyes never leaving the ice floating above the girl's hand. The pixie, Peri, hovered at one of the girl's shoulders, looking at Anna worryingly.
"W-We were never allowed to stray far from the village. I've only ever seen animals."
"But you're traveling."
"It's my first time."
The girl hummed and twirled her hand, making the ice disappear. "I am a wizard from Ahtohallan," she introduced. "Hunter, I'd like to thank you for saving me."
"N-No! It's nothing, really. It was all the pi- Peri who did it. I just followed her around!" She fiddled with her fingers, eyes flickering here and there. "A-And I'm... I-I'm not really a hunter."
Anna had to bite her lip to forcefully stop herself from talking. She was from the hunter's village, but she wasn't a hunter and would never be one at heart. The townspeople knew that, she knew that, and even the animals she freed from their traps knew that. It wasn't her calling.
"Is that so?" asked the girl. Anna peeked through her lashes to see the girl smiling. "Nonetheless, I still want to thank you, traveler. If there is something I can do to repay you, speak free."
Anna opened her mouth to say something but stopped when she saw the look in the girl's eyes. She knew that look. She had seen it on some of her fellow apprentice's faces. Sometimes, even the animals that were caught on traps showed the same expression.
There was no way this girl would accept a no for an answer.
Anna shifted her attention to Olaf in time to see him blink up at her. She could deny the girl the satisfaction of returning a favor or she could ask for help. But... what kind of help can she ask someone she had only met?
"I..." Anna swallowed. "Can I come with you?"
"You said you're on a mission." Anna curled her fingers, tore her gaze from Olaf, and hardened her resolve as she met the girl's gaze. "I'm currently traveling but don't have any clear destination in mind."
There was no immediate response. The girl glanced at Peri and it looked like they were having a silent conversation with their eyes. Anna could feel the intensity of it even if none of them were talking. It was a few more agonizing seconds later when the girl looked at her again.
"What's your name?"
"Anna," she said. "My name is Anna."
"Anna." The girl repeated. Anna's heart warmed upon hearing her name spoken in a different dialect other than Arendellian. "Tell me, why have you left Arendelle? If your village is anything like mine, only certified hunters can go deep inside the forest. You said you weren't one."
Anna nibbled her lower lip and sighed. "I'm an orphan. I was raised to be a hunter by the townspeople."
"Why did you leave?"
"I don't want to be one," Anna answered truthfully. "I have nothing against the people in my town. I owe them my life. But living with the pressure and expectations of being a hunter? I can't. I don't want to hurt defenseless animals."
The girl didn't say anything, which added to Anna's anxiousness. She was glad for Olaf's presence by her side. She knew that whatever happened, the cub would always be with her. Olaf nuzzled one of her legs again and caused her to smile.
"Anna." Anna blinked back her tears and looked at the girl. "The forest is a dangerous place. I have no doubt you are capable if you've reached this far on your own. But I am a wizard in a mission of eradicating creatures who threaten my people. I kill." Anna clenched her fist. "If you still want to come with me, I won't stop you, but I need you aware."
"I know." Anna pressed her lips, paused, and huff out a breath. "I left my home knowing the forest is a dangerous place. From what you said, you aren't killing without a reason. That's good enough for me."
The girl sighed. "Very well. I guess we'll be traveling together, then."
Anna's jaw slackened. "R- Really?! Just like that? You're okay with it?"
"I did say I want to return the favor. Besides, you know your way with herbal medicines. I don't usually get injured, but one can't be too careful."
Anna looked at the girl up and down. "Really? You don't get injured?"
"Indeed. What a rare sight you had." The girl smirked for a second before she sucked a breath and stretched her hand out. "My name is Elsa. May we have a safe journey ahead of us, Anna."