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Morning Break

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There’s something about kayaking on a lake at sunrise, a serenity that is rarely matched. Most of the wildlife is quiet, except for the call of loons waking up early in search of fish. The air is still and cool, fog gently wafting over the surface of the water. The sun’s first rays are golden and warming, chasing the night away and waking the fish below the surface of the water. A few frogs start to splash around a little on the shoreline, in search of their own meals, but the overwhelming sensation is one of calm and quiet.

Elsa closed her eyes as she let her boat slowly drift along the surface of the water, the clear ice allowing her to see the aquatic life underneath it. She could have used her magic to propel her along, but there was something calming about languorously paddling along the lake herself, the subtle scent of pine trees in the early morning air.

She breathed in the cool, moist morning air and relaxed her body, letting the mist caress her exposed shoulders. She’d desperately needed a break from the palace, and while her icy fortress on the North Mountain was often her first choice for some breathing room, the icy lake just a few hundred meters from the mountain was almost as good. The pressures of crown affairs, land disputes, water rights… all of the buzzing that filled her days vanished when she was out here, one with the wind and sky.

Just as she picked up the Greenland-style stick paddle she’d woven from ice…

… a loud belch startled her out of her reverie, and she dropped it in the water.

Elsa turned around with an arched brow and a disapproving frown as her sister covered her stomach and giggled. “Sorry! Hunger burp. I, uh… I didn’t know that was going to happen. I guess I’m hungrier than I thought.”

“That’s quite unbecoming, Princess,” she scolded, struggling not to let her laughter show as she dipped her fingers into the water next to the boat, icy fingers forming a new paddle as her old one drifted away. “Didn’t you pack any snacks?”

Anna cringed, hunched down in her woolen cloak. “I… might have accidentally left them in the dining room after Gerda dropped them off.”

“What got you so distracted that you left snacks behind?” Elsa chuckled, turning around to start paddling the kayak. “Snacks are usually your favorite part of our outings, especially when you have Gerda include some of those cocoa stroopwafels you keep having me import from Holland. Our Minister of Trade is quite displeased with just how many we’ve ordered.”

“Umm… nothing, really. Nothing at all, sis.” Anna picked up the icy paddle Elsa had made for her in her mitten-clad hands and began to match Elsa’s rhythm, hoping her sister didn’t turn around to see how furiously she was blushing. She thought back to how closely she’d watched her sister at the pre-dawn breakfast they’d shared before departing for the lake.

Watching Elsa eat, so properly and daintily, was incredibly arousing to her. This morning’s meal of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast nearly killed her; Elsa ate with a knife and fork, and every time the pink tip of her tongue flicked out underneath the forkful of food, Anna’s breath hitched.

“It’s not nothing. You can talk to me, Anna. There’s no one out here that will hear you, whatever it is, so say it out loud.” Elsa chuckled as she continued, “You and snacks are practically lovers. I find it hard to believe that you’d leave your lover behind.”

With a wry grin, Anna put her paddle astern and reached her arms around to cup Elsa’s breasts with her mitten-clad hands, rumpling Elsa’s ice dress slightly. “I didn’t leave all my lovers behind, you know,” she whispered in her sister’s ear.

Elsa lost another paddle.

“Anna! Not in public!” she hissed, dipping her fingers into the lake once more to craft another paddle. “We’re supposed to be enjoying a nice, quiet morning in nature.” Elsa glanced around furtively, but the nearest cottage was on the far side of the lake, hundreds of meters away. From that distance, no one would be able to make out any details.

“I was appreciating nature!” Anna snarked back as she picked up her paddle and resumed rowing, savoring the memory of her sister in her hands. “Besides, I-”

Abruptly, Elsa held up her hand to shush Anna, lifting her paddle out of the water and cocking her head. “Do you hear that?” she whispered.

“No, I… wait, yes I do. It… it sounds like someone’s crying. But I can’t tell which direction it’s coming from, it’s echoing all over the lake.” Anna turned her head from side to side, attempting to locate the source of the sound. “There, over there!” Anna pointed to the northwest, a small row of cottages lining the distant shore, probably a kilometer away. She could see a few thin wisps of smoke from the chimneys, likely cooking fires as families started their days.

Elsa squinted. “It sounds like a child’s cry… and not a normal one. Let’s go take a look.” Both sisters began to paddle as the cries got closer and louder, but they were still hundreds of meters away. Elsa set her jaw, wove her fingers together, and an icy wind blew at their backs, speeding the boat towards the shoreline faster than they could have paddled alone.

As they approached, they saw the source of the cries; a young blonde girl in a threadbare dress, not more than four or five years old, was standing on the shore, her hands over her eyes as she wailed. Elsa beached the kayak; as soon as Anna was ashore, she turned it into snowflakes that drifted away. “What’s the matter, princess?” Elsa asked, kneeling down.

“M-m-m-my big sister! My big sister is m-m-missing!”

Anna knelt down and put her arm around the little girl, rubbing small circles on her back to soothe her. “It’s going to be okay, sweetheart. Where did you see her last?”

The girl pointed towards the cluster of fifteen cottages, simple wooden structures with thatched, grass-covered roofs. In the center of the cottages was a small stone well, and a stone communal oven near it. The sisters walked over to the well and immediately saw what had happened.

Anna gasped, her eyes wide as her hand flew up to cover her mouth. There was a girl, not much older than the little girl standing next to them, face down at the bottom of the well, partially submerged in the water. “How- how long has she been in there?”

“Mama just sent her out for water a few minutes ago!” the child choked out between cries.

Elsa nodded at her sister as she furrowed her brow, then closed her eyes and reached into her magic. Tendrils of frost and snow shot from her fingers, and a thin coating of ice surrounded the girl in the well. As she did with Olaf at the Christmas tree, Elsa’s magic lifted the girl from the well carefully, levitating her onto dry ground. She suppressed the waves of fear and sorrow inside herself; the very thought of losing Anna like this made her sick to her stomach.

Anna touched her fingers to the girl’s neck. “I think she still might be alive, Elsa. Do you think any of the families here have a bellows?” A few years back, when Anna had nothing to do in the palace except explore and read, she’d read through most of the medical books in the Royal Library, one of which detailed how a fireplace bellows could be used to resuscitate a drowning victim.

“No need for that,” Elsa smiled grimly as she conjured a bellows out of ice and handed it to Anna while she propped the little girl up into a half-sitting position, holding her head and shoulders steady. Anna carefully placed the bellows in the girl’s mouth and pumped them a few times. Within moments, the girl’s chest heaved and she regained consciousness, then bent over and vomited out the water in her stomach and lungs on the rocky ground.

Anna’s heart leapt at seeing the little girl revived. Warmth spread in her chest and she could barely contain her joyful laughter. The younger sister immediately charged in, displacing Elsa as she hugged her older sister tightly.

Anna stood up, taking Elsa’s hand as they watched the tearful reunion of the little sisters, memories of her own childhood plucking at her heartstrings. Before her isolation, Elsa had hugged her like that. Several of the cottage doors had opened and villagers had peeked to see what all the commotion was about. One woman, most likely the girls’ mother, rushed over to see what had happened, sitting in the dirt to hold them.

The younger sister spoke up immediately, taking her mother’s hand excitedly. “I cried for help to the spirits because Ingeborg was missing and I couldn’t find her! But then the spirits came and saved her, Mama! Ingeborg fell down the well.”

The girls’ mother, a middle-aged brunette peasant woman, crouched down and cradled her children as she soothed them. “Karoline, you should have come back inside and gotten us, baby. Next time, please come get us right away instead of crying to the spirits, okay?”

“Why, Mama? The spirits came,” she beamed, pointing at Elsa and Anna.

“They’re not spirits, Karoline. They’re just-” At that moment, the mother looked up and nearly dropped her children. “Oh my God, Your Majesty! Your Highness!” She immediately tried to scramble to her knees so she could bow properly to her sovereign. “Please forgive my rudeness!”

Elsa laughed and knelt down, resting a hand on the woman’s shoulder to reassure her. “Please, there’s nothing to forgive. Princess Anna and I were just out for a quiet morning on the lake when we heard little Karoline’s cries.”

“And she used magic to lift Ingeborg out of the well and then her friend used a magical thing to put air back inside Inge, Mama! She is so one of the spirits!” the little girl chirped excitedly as the royal sisters nodded, affirming the truthfulness of the girl’s story.

“Th- thank you, Your Majesty. We are so grateful to you for saving Ingeborg’s life. Long live Queen Elsa!” A few of the villagers who were huddled in their doorways echoed the mother’s oath.

“Well, we should be going,” Elsa smiled, taking Anna’s hand in her own as she bent down to address the girls. “Karoline, remember to get an adult if your sister is in trouble, and remember to love your sister and be kind to her. And Ingeborg, always be grateful that you have a wonderful little sister who looks after you so well, just like Princess Anna always looks after me.” The royal sisters waved to the villagers as they walked back to the shore, and Elsa decided to show off a little for the children.

She tapped the ground with her foot and instead of a small kayak, a much more grand Nordland single-mast boat appeared, the sails fluttering in the breeze just as Elsa’s ice gowns did. Both Ingeborg and Karoline clapped at the show, while the adults stood flabbergasted at their Queen’s abilities. Save for the Eternal Winter, none had ever seen Elsa’s magic up close.

“Well, that was anything but a calming break from the palace,” Elsa murmured as they sailed away to the far end of the lake, the village growing smaller in the distance. Anna turned to her sister with a devilish grin tugging at her lips, reaching towards Elsa. “Speaking of breaks… I’d like to get back to appreciating nature now, please…”

Author’s Notes

Kayaks were invented millennia ago; in this fic, Elsa is using a paddle originally of Danish origin.

This fic was written as part of the April 2021 Elsanna Shenanigans monthly contest.

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