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One Year On

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Anna didn’t realize just how much work went into the Harvest Festival until she was queen and everything fell to her. I thought I did a lot as a princess, she groused to herself, stifling a yawn. It was only eight in the morning but she had already been up for hours, which was unheard of and even unthought of before her own coronation. And she was already exhausted.

So much has changed in a year, she mused, resting her head on her fist as she looked over the never-ending stream of papers on her desk. A year ago, the day had started off normally. By midnight, everyone had been driven out of the capital by angry spirits and all of that had happened. Now, she was queen, Elsa was living happily and peacefully with the Northuldra, and she and Kristoff were married. Neither one of them had wanted a long engagement, and since Elsa had abdicated, leaving no heirs to the throne after Anna had ascended, the royal advisors was eager for a marriage and children. So they had married on the first day of spring.

Elsa and a few of the Northuldra had come for the wedding. And Elsa had come down for Anna’s birthday on the summer solstice. Beyond that, though, she hardly saw her sister. It had stung, to have to send her sister’s birthday present via Gale last December, but Elsa had barely been with the Northuldra a month and Anna supposed she could see her sister’s reluctance to leave, even for a short visit, so soon after reaching peace with the group.

But now she had been with them almost a year, and the people of Arendelle wanted to see more of their northern neighbors. So today, Elsa and all of the Northuldra would come to Arendelle to celebrate. It was a lot, logistically speaking, and for anyone else it would have been just short of a nightmare. But for Elsa and the people their mother came from, Anna would move the North Mountain itself.

She must have fallen asleep at her desk, because Gerda was shaking her by the shoulder.

“Hmm? Yeah, papers are signed and stamped, thank you,” Anna blurted, cringing as the lie came out. A glance at the desk would easily show that nothing had been accomplished.

“Sorry to bother you, your Majesty,” Gerda said with a tight smile. “But there’s a ship approaching our shores and the General believes you’ll want to see for yourself.”

“Ship? A ship?” Anna’s mind was so foggy, it took a moment for what Gerda was saying to sink in. “We weren’t expecting any delegations, were we? I mean, besides Elsa and the Northuldra.”

“No, Majesty. General Mattias is on the south balcony with a scope and requests your presence.” Anna looked at Gerda again and saw a tenseness in her face, very subtle, but she knew it was there. She’d grown up with Gerda always nearby; she knew that face as well as she knew her own.

“Gerda, what is it?”

“I really think it’s best if you see for yourself,” the housekeeper said quietly. Anna’s heart picked up its pace. It wasn’t often that she saw Gerda so strained.

 

“Good morning, General,” Anna said as she strode onto the balcony. The morning haze was burning off and the day looked to be cool but bright, with a bite to the air. A perfect day for the Northuldra to experience Arendelle for the first time.

“Your Majesty. I’m sorry to pull you away from your many duties,” Destin Mattias began, but Anna waved a hand dismissively.

“I needed the exercise. And to look at something other than documents and decrees.”

“I don’t know if you’ll want to see this, but you need to,” Mattias said in a hushed tone. Anna stomach flipped and the coffee and pastries she’d had as an early breakfast now bubbled. Both Gerda and her general were subdued. What was happening?

“Why won’t anyone tell me?” She hadn’t meant for the question to come out as a barked order, but the tenseness in the air was making her ill.

“I really think it’s better you see this for yourself. Respectfully,” Mattias said, gesturing to the telescope. With a sigh, Anna stepped up to the eyepiece and peered through. It took a moment, as the ship had nearly moved out of view already. She adjusted the scope slightly and her already acidic breakfast threatened to escape over the balcony railing. On the main mast, at the very top, the ship was flying a white flag. Just below it, however, was the standard of the Southern Isles. And there was no mistaking their trajectory: they were headed right for Arendelle’s port.

“Where’s Kristoff?” Anna demanded, backing away from the telescope. A few hems and haws met her and Anna suddenly had two pressing needs: to find her husband, and to not be sick in front of her staff. “Please find him and have him meet me in my office in ten—fifteen minutes,” she managed to say as she hurried off of the balcony.

 

Kristoff slipped into her office, closing the door silently behind him, and Anna sagged in her chair. Just looking at him made her feel better. Which was good, because that breakfast still wasn’t sitting right, even after it had vacated the premises.

“You’re pale, are you okay?” he asked, rushing to her. Anna stood and let him hold her, sighing deeply.

“Bad breakfast. Mattias told you?”

“Saw it myself,” Kristoff replied, holding her even tighter. While her general had been told all about the former Prince Hans and how the whole of the Southern Isles were personae non gratae on Arendelle’s lands and waters, Kristoff was there for all of it and knew better than anyone in the country what this really meant. And how deeply it affected her. He was the one who soothed her after the nightmares, after all. “How can I help?”

“I don’t know,” Anna answered, heaving a sigh so deep it seemed to come from the soles of her feet. “They know very clearly that this is considered an act of war. Which is probably why they’re flying the white flag. But why today?”

“When are Elsa and the others arriving?”

“Noon.” Kristoff hummed and Anna pulled away far enough to look up at him. He was chewing on his lip, deep in thought.

“You see to them. Mattias and I can handle the ship.” Anna’s heart skipped unpleasantly.

“I don’t want you getting near them,” she ordered, backing away while taking his hand. “You can’t get hurt.”

“I won’t be hurt,” her husband said soothingly, giving her hand a squeeze. “If we greet the ship with nothing but the head of the military, it shows that we’re only willing to start a war.”

“They started it,” Anna cut in. It sounded petulant, she knew, but she really couldn’t help it.

“Well, yes,” Kristoff conceded, leaning against her desk and playing with the rings on her left hand. Her shoulders relaxed the slightest bit; she loved it when he did that because he had told her the morning after their wedding that every time he looked at the rings he had put on her finger, he still had a hard time believing it was true. And every time he played with her rings, she knew exactly what he was thinking, and it made her feel closer to him. “But how we respond to this action matters just as much. Don’t you agree?” Another deep sigh escaped her.

“Yes. What’s your plan?”

“First, to see if they’re actually bold enough—or stupid, I can’t decide which—to moor at the docks, or if they stop just outside of Arendelle’s waters. Then we’ll meet the boat and see why they’ve come and what they could possibly want that’s worth potentially starting a war. If I’m there, then it’s not just the military showing up and hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.” Anna still didn’t like it, but she could see the necessity of it. Which seemed to be a lot of what ruling seemed to be about. Geez, no wonder Elsa abdicated, she caught herself thinking.

“Just be careful,” she pleaded, moving back into his arms. Kristoff squeezed her tight, his head resting on top of hers, and Anna almost laughed when she thought, good thing I’m not wearing my crown right now. That still took getting used to.

“I will. Though if that guy is on the ship, he may meet the business end of an ice pick.”

“I’ll allow it, Reindeer King.”

“Reindeer King Consort,” Kristoff corrected.

 

The Southern Isles ship had dropped anchor just beyond Arendelle’s waters at ten minutes past eleven in the morning. Anna stood on the south balcony with Kristoff, Mattias, Kai and Gerda.

“Looks like we’re going to meet them,” Kristoff said, glancing at Mattias. The general was good at keeping his face impassive, Anna saw, but there was a fleeting moment of worry as he glanced at her.

“Do you agree, Majesty?”

“My husband has already discussed options with me, and while I don’t like it, I understand the why of it. What do you think, General?”

“I agree with him. We’ll take a smaller, faster ship, but have the rest of the navy on high alert.” Anna’s heart lurched. She couldn’t let herself think about that too much. And it was nearly time to meet her sister and the Northuldra, rotten timing though it was.

She was cutting it very close on time, she knew, but Anna stayed on the south balcony until the ship bearing Kristoff and Mattias anchored a safe distance away from the Southern Isles ship.

“Majesty, you’re going to be late,” Kai said quietly, but there was understanding in his voice. He was another person Anna had grown up knowing, and while Kai didn’t let much of anything show—well, besides his disapproval, of which he had plenty—she knew the subtleties of his tone well. He was just doing his job.

“One moment,” Anna whispered, barely allowing herself to breathe. There was movement on the deck of the Southern Isles’ ship, and then a rowboat was being lowered off the side. There looked to be only one person aboard, and there was a white cloth tied around the handle of one oar. He waved it at Arendelle’s ship until the small boat splashed down into the water, and then he rowed to the Arendellian ship.

“Now I can go,” Anna said, finally releasing her breath. But she must have held it too long, because when she turned to step away from the telescope, the deck of the balcony seemed to tilt under her as black rushed in from the edges of her vision.

 

“I missed all the fun,” Anna groused.

“For good reason,” her sister said patiently. Anna was tucked into her bed, once again in her nightgown, and Elsa was sitting on the side of the bed. “Besides, not much happened.”

“Well clearly it has, because Kristoff still isn’t back.” She twisted the sheets in her hands, worried, until her sister laid a calming hand across hers.

“He’ll be back any moment now. When I left, things were nearly done. Besides, my horse is faster than your ship.”

“Brag much?” Anna scoffed, and Elsa cracked a smile. “So how much did you see, exactly?” Elsa shifted, moving to lay next to her sister.

“When Nokk and I arrived, we took at least a decade off of that poor midshipman’s life,” she started, and Anna laughed. “Guess the Southern Isles didn’t hear that part of our ongoing saga.”

“Was he already on our ship? Arendelle’s ship, I mean.”

“No, he was still in his rowboat. Your husband is no fool, and neither is Mattias. They were calling down to him but that idiot from the Isles kept insisting he had to hand that paper straight to one of them.” Anna’s brow furrowed.

“That’s what I don’t like,” she said quietly. She took a sip of her tea and Elsa watched her closely. “Go on.”

“He gave the scroll over to me easily enough, and Nokk jumped aboard Arendelle’s ship. I handed the scroll to Kristoff, in full view of the midshipman, and told him his task was done.”

“But did they leave?”

“I don’t know,” Elsa sighed, finally losing her patience. “I left because I knew something was wrong, and when I reached the castle, I was told you’d collapsed.”

“I’m fine, I just…overdid it. Among other things,” Anna replied, staring at her hands. “I’m sorry I missed greeting you and the Northuldra, I was looking forward to it so much. Is Yelena mad?”

“You know she isn’t,” Elsa said, rolling her eyes. “She’s as worried about you as I am.”

"I’ll be alright. I just need to talk to Kristoff.” She could feel her sister staring at her for a long moment before Elsa sat up.

“Alright, I’ll leave you to it.” She was at the door when Anna sat up straighter, about to call out, when Elsa opened the door and smiled.

“Hey stranger.” Anna could just see her sister leaning in to embrace someone, but the door was in the way. “Find me after,” Elsa added to Anna, a strange look on her face. But she was gone before Anna could ask what that look was about, and then Kristoff was rushing to her.

“I just heard. What happened? How do you feel now? Are you hurt?” To be honest, Anna had wanted his fussing and doting over her. She let him kick off his shoes and climb across the bed to her, taking her in his arms.

“I’m fine, I’ll be fine. It’s just…a thing.”

“A thing.” He was giving her a skeptical look, she knew it. The same look Sven gave when he knew someone was lying, and she always wanted to know who did it first but she was afraid to ask because it might offend Kristoff. Or Sven. Or both of them. But her face grew hot and suddenly her mouth wouldn’t work right besides failing to suppress a smile.

“Your anniversary present might be a little early next year,” was all she said.

“We’ve barely been married half a year, why are you worrying about that now? You sure you didn’t hit your head?”

“I’m sure! So rude. I should just wait until you figure it out for yourself.” Kristoff held her at arms’ length.

“I’m really lost here. Figure what out?”

“First, tell me what happened with the Southern Isles.”

“I think your health is a little more important than them.”

“Thank you, but the safety of the entire country is actually more important that little old me.”

“That is absolutely not true,” Kristoff said softly, tilting her chin up with a gentle finger. “It went fine. They just wanted to deliver a message, if you must know, and they were under strict instructions that it had to be delivered directly to a member of the royal family. Once it was in my hands and they saw I had broken the seal and looked at it, they were on their way.” That…was definitely unusual.

“So how cursed was that scroll?” Anna quipped.

“Well I still have all my hair, so not very?” Kristoff guessed.

“Good, your hair is one of your best features,” Anna smiled, tugging at one of the locks that was forever half-covering his ears.

“What else do you like? And don’t just say ‘all of it.’” Even though that’s what she always said.

“Even if I mean it?”

“Well of course, if you mean it,” he conceded, a smug little smile playing at his lips. “It’s always nice to hear.” He stroked her cheek before the smile fell and his serious look was back. “Kai met us at the docks and told me you’d collapsed, Anna. I ran all the way here, I was so—” He took a deep breath and looked down, biting his lip. “It felt like that day,” he said quietly, his voice breaking. She knew exactly what he meant: the day she almost hadn’t come back to life. Her heart wrenched and she took his face in her hands, kissing his forehead before moving her mouth to an ear.

“I love you, Kristoff,” she said quietly, and his hand slipped to her waist. “And I know your present loves you, too. But you’ll just have to wait until March to meet him or her.” He pulled back to look at her, brow furrowed, and she tried to bite back a laugh. She had tried to make it a nice moment, anyway. “Really? That was too subtle?”

“I don’t…” He shook his head. Yep, too subtle.

“Your present is a baby! Sheesh, I try to say it all nice but no—”

“Wait, what?” She loved him fiercely, but in certain regards he was just so endearingly dense.

“Kristoff.” Anna waited until he was focused on her. “I was sick this morning. I fainted.” He nodded. That much was clear. “The doctor came and it didn’t take much for him to figure out the two were related.” He was starting to look a little confused again, so she took one of his hands and placed it on her belly, just beginning to swell. “And they happened because there’s a baby there.” If he didn’t figure it out after that, she was out of options. Thankfully, his eyes grew wide and grinned so hard it must have hurt.

“Wait, really?” She nodded. “He’s sure?” Another nod. “That’s…that’s amazing.” She nodded. “Are you happy?”

“So,” she sighed. So incredibly happy. “Are you?”

“So,” he echoed.

 

He really was happy, because he couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. And it was a long day. And once he knew, it was safe to tell Elsa. Anna waited until they had a moment alone, after Elsa had made ice toys for all of the children who might want one and before the big meal was served.

“I have to tell you something,” Anna began, and Elsa gave her that strange look again.

“Go on,” was all her sister said.

“You’re going to have a little nephew or niece next year.” Elsa smiled as she looked across the crowds.

“I knew it.”

“You knew? Since when?”

“Just a feeling,” Elsa shrugged, turning to focus on her sister. “You’ve never fainted in your life before. Even when you fell out of that tree and broke your arm when you were six.”

“I am pretty sturdy, aren’t I?” Anna agreed, and her sister laughed.

“I also had a feeling,” Elsa admitted. “It’s hard to explain, but when I saw you today, I just knew.”

“Ooh, do you think it’s a magic baby?” Anna asked eagerly, trying to keep her voice down. The entire kingdom would know before too long, but for now she’d still like it if the news was a family and friends secret.

“I have no idea,” Elsa laughed. “Guess we’ll have to wait and find out, won’t we?”

“I was never good at waiting.”

“Oh, I know. We all know, Anna.” Elsa lapsed into a thoughtful silence, watching the townspeople enjoying the festival, until something across the way caught her eye and made her chuckle. “We might have to tie Kristoff to a lamppost so he doesn’t fly away,” Elsa noted, nodding to her brother-in-law. He was talking enthusiastically to some Northuldra people and looked elated.

“He’s probably telling everyone he meets,” Anna explained with an eye roll. “I told him friends and family first, but I guess everyone here qualifies, don’t they?”

“Hmm, good point,” Elsa mused with a smile.

“Though everyone was going to guess soon enough. Even with mama’s styling, these loose dresses only hide so much. I just thought I was eating too much.” Anna played with the skirt of her high-waisted dress, trying to see if anything was, in fact noticeable.

“Since when do you care how much you eat?”

“Oh, I still don’t. I just thought it was finally catching up to me,” Anna admitted, and they both burst into a laughing fit. “Speaking of, I need to make up for the breakfast pastries I lost. Want some?”

“I miss the pastries,” Elsa admitted.

“Oh, you should have told me! I could have Gale bring you some.”

“She’d have to bring enough for everyone.” As if on cue, Elsa’s hair stood on end with a gust of controlled wind. “Speak of the dust devil. Hi, Gale!”

“Hey Gale!” Anna greeted the wind spirit quickly, hoping to keep her hairdo intact. “Enjoying the festival? We put streamers on every lamp for you.” A windy chirp said that Gale did, in fact, love the streamers as the spirit fluttered down the avenue, sending the streamers flying.

“I think she likes you better,” Elsa confided.

“Because I’m the fun aunt who gives her toys.” Elsa laughed.

“I’ll have to remember that. So what ended up being in that scroll from the Southern Isles?” Anna’s eyes went wide.

“I never even looked at it!”

“Oh well,” Elsa shrugged, “it can wait. They would have stuck around if it had needed an immediate response.”

“True. Well, I’m resolving to not think about it for the rest of the festival,” Anna declared.

 

She was already in her pajamas, half-asleep and wanting nothing but sleep for the next 14 hours, when Anna remembered the scroll from the Southern Isles again. With a sigh, she slipped from the bedroom and made her way to her office. The scroll was where Kristoff had left it, on her desk.

Anna was halfway through reading it when she heard a noise and looked up to see Kristoff at the door.

“Did you read this?” she asked. He stepped inside and shook his head

“I only broke the seal. How bad is it?”

“It’s not bad. It’s just…kind of pointless?” He moved to stand next to her and Anna handed over the scroll. Kristoff glanced over it.

“Am I missing something here?” he finally asked, looking at her.

“If you are, then I am, too,” Anna replied. “Who sails under a white flag and nearly starts a war over ‘we’re here if you need us’?”

“A kingdom full of idiots,” Kristoff retorted. “Sorry, I’m supposed to be more diplomatic now.”

“Not with me, you’re not.” Kristoff laughed and tossed the scroll on the desk.

“They’re trying to get you to consider trade again, aren’t they?”

“Oh, I’m sure they are,” Anna agreed with a yawn and eye rub. “But their timing is awful, as usual. The council can deal with that. I’ve got better things to think about.”

“Like what?”

“Like curling up with my husband in a nice warm bed and sleeping for a week.”

“Let’s keep the council out of that,” Kristoff agreed, and Anna laughed, taking his hand and leading him from the room. When they were nestled under the covers together, a fire happily popping and crackling in the hearth, Anna sighed and pushed a lock of hair off of Kristoff’s forehead.

“Good day today?”

“The best,” he grinned, a hand slipping to her waist. She came to him, resting her head under his chin. “Good day today?” They did this every night, and it was probably the best part of the day for Anna.

“Great day.”