Anna was unexpectedly chipper as she joined Elsa for breakfast. Late, of course, but chipper. She curtseyed and said, “Good morning, Your Worship.”
Elsa raised an eyebrow, but didn't stop buttering her æbelskiver. “You know you don't have to curtsey, and you should know that I'm not 'Your Worship.' “
“Oh, I apologize, Your Grace. I pray you'll forgive me, but I don't know the correct term since your promotion.” Anna smirked, and sat down to breakfast.
Elsa stirred her tea and thought. “Hmm. A 'promotion', and judging by your word choice something religious. Does someone want to give me an official role in the church?”
“Honestly. Isn't it enough that I'm 'Protector of the Faith'? Does someone want me to be head of the church, too?”
Anna continued her superior smile. “Higher.”
Elsa scoffed. “What, then? Pope, I suppose?”
Anna leaned forward, and looked smugly at Elsa. “Higher.”
Elsa sat back. “What in heaven's name…?”
“Funny you should say that.” Anna slid a printed notice across the table.
Anna chuckled as Elsa examined it. “That's…me.” It was. The flyer featured an engraving of Elsa under the heading “First Church of Skaði Made Manifest,” and invited worshippers to come to services at the old fishmongers' warehouse. “This…I can't be a goddess, I'm Lutheran! They can't just start worshipping me.” She paused. “Can they?”
“I don't know. What are you going to do about it? Ban them?”
“I can't do that.” Elsa scowled and drank her tea. “Arendelle has a long history of religious tolerance. I can't start banning religions just because I don't like them.”
“That reminds me. There's this nice Muslim family with a restaurant near the market, and they make this thing called a 'shawarma.' You really ought to try it.”
“Anna, this is serious. There are people worshipping me. What can I do?”
Anna shrugged. “Tell them not to?”
Elsa pondered. “I guess so. First thing tomorrow I'm giving a public proclamation. That should put a damper on things.”
“Good thing you don't have a cold. You'd have to bless yourself if you sneezed.”
Elsa tossed a bun at Anna, but not very hard.
The next day Elsa stood on a balcony overlooking the castle's courtyard. It was packed with people; some patriotic, a few worshipping, and a handful hoping for another show of magic.
“People of Arendelle. Faithful citizens. Good morning. I want you all to know how touched and honoured I am by your love and respect. It fills my heart, and gives me the strength to carry on making Arendelle a better and more prosperous home for us all.”
She took a breath and steadied herself on the railing. “Grateful as I am, it has been brought to my attention that some of you have…” she chuckled nervously, “…gone a little overboard. Specifically, someone has attempted to found a church to worship…me. Please. I am your Queen, and I hope I am a good an admirable person, but I am not a goddess. Or a demigoddess. Or a jötunn. Or a prophet, priestess, or pope. And I certainly don't want to be a martyr.” She smiled awkwardly at the polite chuckles.
“I don't wish to ban any form of worship, but I ask that you respect my wishes and not set me up as anything divine. I do have some magic, but there is nothing more holy or miraculous about me than anyone else. I may be Queen, but at the end of the day I am just a person and an Arendellan, like you all, and that is more than enough. Thank you for your kind attention.” She paused before the traditional closing, and winced a little. “God bless you all.”
As the crowd cheered and the pølser stands started doing business, Elsa went back inside. “That should take care of things.” She turned to Anna. “Right?”
“Of course. Everything'll be fine.”
A couple of days later Anna came to Elsa's study. “Um, hi. Hi. Got a minute?”
Elsa closed the ledger in front of her and stacked it with her papers, then smiled up at her sister. “For you, Anna, all the time in the world.”
“Yeah.” Anna shifted awkwardly and didn't sit down. “Remember that proclamation you gave?”
“And how it would clear everything up?”
Elsa's smile dissolved. “Yes?”
“Well, it turns out not so much.” Anna handed Elsa the papers she had held behind her back. There were two of them. One for the Reformed Church of Skaði Made Manifest, and one for a meeting of the Church Of Skaði Personified In Our Queen at the old sewing factory.
“There's two of them now?”
“Yeah. The Manifesters say your speech meant they weren't worshipping you hard enough, and the Personifiers say it meant they weren't worshipping you the right way. The Councillor for Police Stuff— ”
“That's not his title.”
“ — says there's already been some fistfights over it. Looks like theological debate includes punching now.”
“Oh hell. I did exactly the wrong thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“The proclamation gave these…people…attention. It didn't calm them down, it gave them validation. I suppose I just have to ignore them and wait for the fuss to die down.”
“Well, that's the most dynamic plan ever.”
“Anna, do you have any ideas?”
“Jeez, you don't have to be sarcastic.”
“No, really. I'm stuck. If you come up with anything, let me know.”
Anna pondered. “Exorcism?”
“Mmm, don't think so.”
“How would that help?”
“It's delicious, and it'll take your mind off something you can't do anything about.”
Elsa couldn't help but smile at Anna. “I have to say, that's a practical idea at this point,” she said, and rang for a kitchen servant.
Elsa usually dealt with laws by making them. It was the first time she'd ever been asked to come to the police station. Accompanied by one of the Royal Guard, she entered the clean but cheerless building.
“Good afternoon, Your Majesty,” said the Station Commander. “I apologize for the imposition. Thank you very much for coming down.”
“Good afternoon. How can I help? And why me, specifically?”
He shrugged. “I don't know what else to do. It's this new religious thing.”
Elsa sighed and put a hand to her forehead. “Let's see what I can do.”
Before they could see the cells, they could already hear the argument.
“How can you ignore what She said?”
“But Her divine nature must have been there all along. Otherwise, when did it happen?”
“How should I know. Mysterious are Her ways. But my point is, She said, 'I am an Arendellan.' That implies citizenship, which implies being human.”
“There's nothing inherent in that.”
“Nothing inherent? What, pigs and ducks can be Arendellan citizens now?”
“Of course not. But they're below humans. There's nothing limiting anyone above human. Like Her.”
Elsa stopped, and the Commander turned to face her. “What are they on about?” she asked.
“As near as I can tell, one of them says you're a queen who became a goddess, and the other one says you're a goddess who became a queen. A couple of beers later and the fists come out.”
“I tell you this, Your Majesty. I already miss the days of kicks, chicks, and swinging di— Uh, that is sports, women, and pride. The three reasons for most brawls.” He shook his head. “At least with those, a night in the cells was generally enough to sober them up and calm them down. This lot, they're just resting up for the next go-round.”
As they turned the corner to the hallway of cells, the argument was still going.
“She's a vessel!”
“Are you saying there's any part of Her that isn't divine? Because if you are I swear by Skaði I will end you!”
“Gentlemen!” said Elsa, and the two prisoners immediately stopped as they saw her. “I will not have this. I am not a goddess, nor am I inhabited, possessed, used, or occupied by one. I am your Queen. That is all. And I will not have you fighting over this…nonsensical argument.” The two men skittered to the backs of their cells. “Now. Do I have your word that you will stop this violence? And you will not encourage it in anyone else?” They nodded, meek as scolded schoolchildren. “Very well. Good day.” She turned and strode out of the hallway, followed by the Commander.
As they turned back around the corner, Elsa slumped against the wall. “Think it'll work?”
“God willing, ma'am. Er, so to speak.”
“Nothing personal, but I hope I don't have to see you again any time soon.” She smiled politely and left, her bodyguard in tow.
As she returned to the castle, she passed Anna who was carrying a bundle of letters which she tried to hide behind her back.
“Anna, what are those?”
Anna smiled awkwardly. “What are what?”
Elsa sighed, smiled. “You're a couple of decades late for peek-a-boo. What are you hiding behind — ” She grabbed around Anna to the right. “ — your — ” To the left. “ — back?” She feinted right, went left, but Anna pivoted and backed up frantically.
“Nothing! I mean, nothing important, anyway. Nothing you need to bother about.”
“Okay, now you've just made me curious.” Elsa put her hands on her hips and gave Anna a stare. “Well?”
“They're, um, letters. From those people in the new churches. You know.”
Elsa's shoulders sagged. “Prayers? For me?”
“Well, no. Not exactly. They're, kind of, for me.”
“To, you know, intercede with you. On their behalf. Behalfs. Behalves?”
Elsa slapped her palm against her own forehead. “This has got to stop.”
“Hey, look at the bright side.”
“Which is what.”
“They…don't think we're demons?”
Elsa huffed and went to her rooms.
Later that week as Elsa was going through her reports, she was pleased to see that there were no more theological brawls reported. On the other hand, there was now a third sect, the United Church of Elsa, founded by the two prisoners she had spoken to and preaching a doctrine of non-violence. It's an ill wind, I suppose. She sat back at her desk and stared at the ceiling. Every time I tell them not to worship me, it just gets worse. What can I do? Start my own church, just to keep them in line? She thought for a while, then sat up, started making notes and rang for another pot of tea.
The announcement went out through the capital that Queen Elsa was inviting anyone who worshipped her in any way to a special service at the field just outside of town, along the north road. A line of believers over a hundred strong made the pilgrimage. As they crested the incline to the broad plateau where the service would be held, they saw a vast, glittering cathedral of ice. In the bright sunlight the flying buttresses and delicate spires dazzled and glistened. It rose like a song to the heavens. The worshippers filed in and took their places on pews of ice. Light streamed through the crystalline walls and ceiling, making the interior as brightly lit as outside, without need of lamps. The pews, pulpit, walls, and beams were decorated with a snowflake motif. There were windows of what seemed to be stained glass but was ice of various shades, frosty and clear, blue and green and white. They depicted Elsa and scenes from her life: the coronation, the freezing of Arendelle, the creation of the ice castle, or simply standing with her arms outstretched in welcome. It was more beautiful by far, and grander, than any cathedral that anyone had seen, or even heard of. More than the cold was making them shiver.
A tapestry of icefabric vanished into a cloud of flakes and blew away, revealing Queen Elsa in her glory. Her hair was unbound and unbraided. She wore a cape with a high collar framing her beatific face, and a glittering robe with gracefully draped sleeves and a long train. She beamed at them and walked to her pulpit, a hexagonal pillar emblazoned with her snowflake sigil. “Welcome, my beloved subjects. Welcome.”
She looked out at the crowd. They were well-behaved, although there was obvious friction between sects. On one side of the aisle, everyone was swaddled thickly against the chill, on the theory that if Elsa was comfortable in the cold they should be as well. Across the aisle the worshippers were dressed lightly in the belief that rejecting the cold by dressing against it was akin to rejecting the Divine Queen Herself. But they were all united in gazing at her in reverence. A skinny stringy-haired girl in the front row stared at Elsa with such overwhelming adoration that it was painful. She looks familiar. I think she's one of the maids. That would explain who's been stealing the “holy relics” off my lunch tray. Elsa braced herself against the pulpit, took a breath, and began.
“My subjects, my followers, my children. I am deeply moved by the devotion you have all shown me. It is inspiring and humbling. And I thank you all for coming today to hear my words. And I want you to pay special attention to them. I have said before, more than once, that I am not a divine or holy figure, and that I do not want you to worship me. And yet, here you are, in your faithfulness and devotion, prepared to treat me as a goddess and follow my holy will. Well, and I cannot stress this too strongly, I am not a goddess. I am merely a woman, untouched by divinity.” There were murmurs of dissatisfaction.
She continued. “I know, I know, you feel disappointed at the thought. But really, I think you should feel grateful and relieved. After all, imagine if I actually were a goddess.”
She stepped out from behind the pulpit and strode back and forth, her vestments trailing behind her. “After all, I did say not to worship Me, or create churches to Me, or call Me holy. And did you obey Me? No, you did not.” A chill breeze whipped around the ice cathedral, making her robes flutter around her and tossing her hair back and forth. “And did you take My word for it? Or did you listen to those charlatans and mountebanks saying, 'Oh, She said this, but She really meant that.' Which did you do?” The light dimmed as grey snowclouds blocked the sun. A howling blizzard shook the walls. “Did you do as I said? Did you?” The storm, instead of drowning out her words, amplified them, as if it was speaking in unison with Her. “You did not! ” She gestured violently at the ceiling, and ice blasts from her hands blew panels off the roof, leaving only beams of ice protecting them from the storm. “Did I ask you to worship Me? Did I give you leave to worship Me?” She threw her arms to the sides and the windows blasted outwards. Gusts like razors froze the would-be worshippers. “I did not!” The walls themselves blasted away, leaving only a skeleton of the cathedral. Her voice, re-echoed by the storm, bypassed their ears and directly entered their chests. “I told you what I wanted of you, in the clearest possible terms! And you were disobedient.” Her hair was now as wild as the storm, and her garments flapped like the wings of an angry white bird. “You followed these self-appointed priests. Do you think I need them to explain My will? Do you think I cannot speak for Myself? Do you have any doubt of what I am saying right now? Do not follow these false prophets, or any ones. Do not DARE to think you have leave to worship Me. Do not think there is anything you can do to appease Me on this. If I want your adoration, I will tell you. Until such time, worship your own gods in your own churches. Begone! BEGONE!”
The terrified acolytes sat paralyzed for a fraction of a second, then fled out the now-empty doorway, or through the spaces where the walls had been. In a minute the last of them were out of sight on the road back to town.
Anna stepped out from her hiding place behind the altar. “That was brilliant! You were amazing! You were all 'grrr' and 'whoosh' and then 'kerchow!' You sure put the fear of Skaði into them!” She ran towards Elsa, grinning.
Elsa flared like a sudden blizzard. The ground shook. “You dare approach your goddess-queen?”
An hour later, Elsa was still outside Anna's bedroom door. “I was kidding! I don't know how many times I have to say this, I was just kidding! It was a joke. I mean, if you could've seen your face you'd know just how funny it was, right? Right?” Elsa's head bonked against the door as she sat back against it. “I know you're in there. I'm not going away. Aw, come on, Anna, I said I was sorry. I am sorry. I do apologize. Just come out and we can talk about this, okay?” Elsa sighed heavily. “I will do whatever you want if you just come out of there. We'll go feed the ducks. We'll go hiking up that damn mountain path you love so much. You can have chocolate for dessert every meal for a week. Just talk to me, okay?”
A folded note slipped out under the door. Elsa opened it and read.
And that's final.