After a few minutes Anna was glad of the rug. The snow was whirling fast now, biting and stinging any exposed skin, carrying away sound and allowing only glimpses of the road ahead. All she could see of the man beside her were his eyes, hard with concentration between his hat brim and his scarf. How did he know where they were going? How did his reindeer keep its footing?
Just as she thought that, the sled lurched and she had to cling to the bench to prevent herself from being thrown out. Kristoff shouted and jumped up. “Stay there,” she just heard him say, before he was on his feet in the snow and grabbing the reindeer’s harness, swinging up onto its back.
She didn’t know how much longer they travelled for. Every way she looked seemed the same to her, and the snow hurt her eyes, so after a while she just pulled the rug down over her head and gripped the edge of the sled seat.
Eventually the sled jerked again and stopped. Anna peered out from under the rug. Were they stuck? But no - Kristoff was by the side of the sled, and he held out his hand to her. “Your highness? Come on.”
She took his hand and was pulled down into the snow. It was deep, almost up to her knees, but she managed to take a few struggling steps, and then there was a wall, and he was opening a door; and he pushed her through and the wind stopped.
Or rather, the wind was now outside, for she was inside. Inside a small, single-room log cabin.
“Do you know how to light a fire?” Kristoff said, urgently.
“Yes - of course.”
He ducked outside again and returned a minute later to drop the birdcage in the middle of the floor. “All right. You do that, and I’m going to see about the other sled. I think they turned back, but - I’ll be back, okay? Keep warm.”
He headed for the door.
“Wait!” Anna called after him.
“What is it?”
“Whose house is this?”
He gave her a strange look. “Mine,” he said, and then he was gone, slamming the door behind him.
There was a small window by the door but Anna couldn’t see anything out of it, just whirling snow. Presumably he knew what he was doing but she didn’t see at all how he could find anyone. But then, she wouldn’t have seen how he could find this cabin - his cabin - in this storm, and yet here she was.
The fire in the woodstove was already neatly laid. The tinderbox was close at hand, too, and she was able to get the fire started quickly; once the relief of being out of the wind had passed, she had realised that the cabin was still very cold, and knelt on the hearth while the room warmed.
Her birds sat on their perches, their heads under their wings. Elsa had said they wouldn’t melt, but Anna kept them away from the woodstove anyway. Should she send a message to say they were alright? No, not just yet. She knew the birds wouldn’t freeze in the storm but she supposed they could still get lost.
No Mrs Bjorgman. That was plain to see, when there was only one chair at the small table, a narrow single bed against one wall. Everything was neat and clean enough, but sparse. Anna had told herself she wasn’t going to be nosy but there wasn’t really anything in here to be nosy about.
The room was warmer now, and she spread the rug over the back of the chair to dry. It must be late afternoon but she still couldn’t see anything out of the small window. Anna kicked off her boots and lay down on the bed, staring into the fire. What would she do if he didn’t come back?
A thump, and a blast of cold air, and there was a man in her bedroom - but no, this wasn’t her bedroom. Anna sat bolt upright and tried to look awake.
“I got as far as the ridge,” Kristoff said, shutting the door behind him and walking over to check on the fire. “No sign of them. No tracks, but then ours are covered too. They’re probably home by now.”
“Okay,” Anna said. “So what do we do?”
“Wait. This’ll pass in a day or two at the most. Sven and the sled are in the stable. Are you hungry?”
“Might as well eat something, then try and get some sleep.”
He went over to the shelves on the wall and started moving things around. Anna looked at the single bed and then stood hurriedly.
“Um. Where do I sleep?” she asked.
“In my bed,” he said casually, putting some things on the table.
Kristoff’s expression changed, and his face turned bright red. “I mean - I'll sleep in the stable. You can sleep in my bed, and I'll sleep in the stable, I didn't mean…”
“It's okay! I knew what you meant,” she lied, aware that her own cheeks were also blazing hot. “But you don't have to do that, I can sleep on the floor -”
“It's fine. I've slept in worse places than stables.” He turned back to the shelf. “And I'm sure your sister wouldn't want us sleeping alone in the same room.”
“We're alone in the same room now.” And then she nearly bit off her own tongue, because why did she say that? This was awkward enough without her making it worse .
Fortunately he elected to ignore her, just finished preparing their simple meal and then pulled out the chair and waited for her to sit.
“Thank you - but if I get the bed, you should get the chair -”
“Only one of us is royalty,” he replied, taking a piece of bread and leaning against the wall to eat.