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⛓ H e i s t ⛓

Chapter Text

 

༺⛓♕⛓༻

"The blossoms in my brain were so beautiful, until they began to grow roots (....)
Then they became monsters." 

  ―PeppermintPictures      


People don't know what it's like for an inmate to spend their entire life sentence reading books; sipping tea; and placing gloves one inch from the table edge, the Holy Scepter one inch to the left, the Sovereign's Orb one inch to the right, and their pounding heart five kilometers to the side, where a noose in the shape of a tiara will be waiting for them between "I can't do this" and "I have to."

(this is what suicides are made of)

The gloves she must peel off like fruit rinds are there to remind her that her body does not belong to her. It belongs to her father's chains. The sac of flesh she inhabits is merely a windowless dungeon with white walls where the bones underneath are all cell bars, and below its grille hatch throbs a circumcised womanhood that begs to be unsutured. Nightly, she is struck by how ironic it would be to wade through galas as a queen in a mobile prison, never free to experience herself or the sunlight beyond her epidermal enclosure. Yet her feral ego ― the willful witch who wars with the perfect girl taming it ― is patiently waiting for a crack to slip through.

Weeks before her 21st, her talons grazed that crack:



Hope you like the chocolate.




~From Yours Truly,
Flynn Rider ❤


She sneered. Her fist decapitated the ruby rose that was appended to her sender's chocolate box.

The Keeper of the Crown Jewels sponged his ruddy forehead as he stood before her oak throne. "This note was found inside the vault that your sapphire parure was stolen from, Your Majesty. It is the same parure your father was saving for your coronation."

The queen bit the quaking walls of her cheeks. Her conscience tried to make her heart hateful and vindictive. It tried to make her abominate the heister who'd stolen her heirloom, but what she truly felt was a geyser of satisfaction. Her glossy eyes scaled the portrait of the eight year old princess who stood a foot away from her family in misery. Whereas her kin parodied happy people, the left side of her face was darkened by a crosshatched shadow, making her appear to be nothing more than a voodoo doll made of hay.

(with Papa's needles stuck inside my liver)

Sleeping on her eight year old throat like a lynching rope was a carcanet from her father's collection. It was a sister to the lariat she wore now and a daughter of the parure that she would never wear now. Conditional gifts had been Papa's substitutions for unconditional love. They replaced apologies for the fact that his love for her had always been sorry. He was sorry that she had been born an accident, sorry that he felt hate for her, and sorry that he had to incarcerate her the same way he would incarcerate his prisoners.

"But these are the reminders that you're different from them," his sorry love would demur. "These are the reminders that you're my daughter, not my hostage."

And she would smile up at him like a lovesick believer ― like she understood ― like this confession was an act of true love. Her upbringing under his hegemony had led to the colonization, oppression, and destruction of every acre of her identity, yet his love had not been sorry about this.

The adult captive returned the chocolate box to her warden of many. "Please burn it."

"Yes, Your Majesty." The treasurer excused himself with the billet-doux.

Queen Elsa of Arendelle sat in the darkness with tears on her breasts and wickedness on her lips.

 

(thirteen years of silence, and now you)

 

It wasn't long before the Queen's Guard was ordered by the Regency Council to leave no stone unturned, and a stone above the castle's crawlway was precisely where the belly-dragger was found. The magistracy calendared his trial under her birthday. From him the wardens demanded his last words, but to them he gave a speech about needing no less than nineteen hours to escape unscathed. News of his cockiness was whispered to her bedroom door by Kai while she sat on the mattress of her penitentiary with Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" in hand. Queen Elsa peeled off her reading glasses to place a leg between her teeth.

Security could have been tightened to outfox the thief at his own little game, but he would've foreseen it. The wheels of her mind began to bicycle over to his incomprehensible drive to test the limits. Gall of that grade was colorful to the witch inside her marrow, yet her nonexistent anger towards the crime he had committed offended her superego further still. Such consciencelessness tormented the princess in her who had been raised to be lawful whilst tempting the prisoner in her who was doomed to be hung. The bandit had ridden her of one coronation item and diverted Europe's gossipers away from, not only her accursed crowning, but her global unpopularity, and that blessing was nothing to forsake. What else Flynn Rider would do had not been prophesied, but the same morning he would break out of the dungeon was the same day she would feel him break her leg irons, too.

 

(and break me open)

 

On the eve of tomorrow, at about five minutes to twelve, her thoughts awakened to flutter open and stare at the ceiling. She was still ― as when she first laid ― crucified to the bed of the cell that she must always call her room, but with the closure of one cricketless hour, another ticked by; and instead of the habitual 'Why am I this way?' her thoughts now tocked towards 'Is this how I want to die?' There should've been left on her heart some lullaby about obeisance and honor sung by her mother ― some cavity-filling hymn that enlivened her with drive, duty, and purpose ― but the void she occupied was musicless. It was this same frozen silence that divided her conscience into two kingdoms.

She threw off her bed sheets and threw on her sheer peignoir to take leave. Her emptiness lured her slippers to her father's study, where answers could be culled from his cobwebbed bible. As she unlocked the door with a sharp click, those guiding slippers hesitated. Her eyes slid over the arms, shoulders, and calves of the unlit furniture to ferret out what made them hesitate. Sparks of electricity were fizzling in the room ― this bodiless yet gravitational residue from a person's presence ― and it sent shivers up her tailbone.

The wall-whacking wings of the window implied that whomever it belonged to had escaped before her ingress, but the rose on her father's desk beckoned her forward. She drifted over to the table, oblivious to the petals that were riding her nightgown's train, and then touched the red tongue of one sticking out of his drawer. Her fist yanked the box open, and out drizzled more. Erratic hands swam through a sea of red until they plucked a letter from the abyss:


P.S.
How would you like to go on the treasure hunt of a lifetime?
Who knows?
It may even lead Her Unwoodable Majesty to a mouthwatering jar of chocolate fondue.


The breath her lungs had been clutching slipped out of their grip with a shudder. "He's making me his plaything." She didn't know whether to scoff or rip up the letter, so she furiously did both. "Of all the womanizers at my gates―"

―"He planted a decoy!" 

Her attention locked onto the three shadows flitting under the door.

―"Where is he now?"

―"There's no telling; the bastard found himself one of the king's evacuation adits and hasn't shown since.

―"Our men are blocking the exits of those adits, so he'll be forced to surface soon enough!"

Eagerness asphyxiated her. Outside the window she flung herself against marched the whole infantry of the Queen's Guard, but not a man among them saw the disguised figure climbing the castle wall's battlements. It hopped from parapet to parapet with the grace of an acrobat, jumping over the moon and through Orion's Belt. Between the act of spidering up one merlon and lassoing a rope around its tooth, the silhouette's foot slipped on the taluses. A warder inside her turret peeked out of the oillet to locate the skittering rocks.

Arcs of adrenaline electrified her icy bloodstream for the first time in forever. The princess who'd been raised to be lawful unbolted her window to expose the thief herself, but the prisoner in her who was doomed to be hung anticipated this braggart's attempt to escape the noose. The warder regressed from the oillet on the account of seeing no one below him; this gave the escapee an opportunity to descend further until a patrol officer spotted his shaking rope. He pulled the thief up by the scalp and slammed him against the merlon. Their scuffle escalated into a melee between the bandit and three other soldiers who jumped in to restrain him.

What at first ended with a hangdog surrender somersaulted into one man headbutting, dodging, and outmaneuvering sentries with stunts no peasant could pull unless he'd been trained by a hero. The phenomenon angered and astonished her. He could trip and not fall; he could glide over and under his obstacles like it was simply a matter of knowing the steps. Alas, his feats were overpowered by five men, and her adrenaline rush disappointingly dissipated into small ripples that stopped undulating altogether. The foot guards canceled the show by bounding, gagging, and blindfolding the thief.

Flynn Rider was then dragged by his ankles to the castle's underground oubliette, which was known as "the place for the forgotten." Queen Elsa escaped her prison and took a lantern down the winding mouth that led to the mural tower's colon. She crouched behind the display armor at the bottom of the quarter-turn stairwell. Two men shuffled into the corridor with the thief stumbling in tow. Sweat glistened on his throat like lard as another rope was wound about his wrists to prepare him for the windlass that would lower his body into the oubliette.

The captive's blindfold was torn off by her captain, unmasking his face to her. She could neither make out his features nor the color of his eyes, but she could feel his pupils sucking her into their whirlpools. The gravitative pull made her mindful of her impropriety. Flynn's gaze stuck to her chest like the sweat kissing her skin, provoking her to timidly close the robe.

The captain asked Flynn what bewitched him so, and he mumbled, "An angel..." with the tritest expression she has ever beheld.

The men looked her way, and in a flash, the melodramatic actor kneed the old captain in the testicles, rammed his lieutenant in the nose with his skull, and then headed straight for her. Fear emboldened her to unshackle the feral witch by grabbing a dagger from the display armor. The blade glinted in an arc of light as it sliced through the air, narrowly missing his throat. 

"Woah, woah, woah, woah!" Flynn caught her wrist. "Calm down!" 

Elsa lost her breath.

"Just calm~ down," he lilted, babying her. "I'm not going to h―"

Before he could explain his intentions, she impulsively yanked herself backwards with all her might, causing his foot to catch in the crack between the floor's granite setts. 

"Woah, woah, WOAH―!"

"―Oof!"

Her lantern shattered into singed shells of glass on the floor. 

"...That hurt," Flynn rasped. 

Straddled by his body, Elsa grunted as unutterable agony pulverized her back from hitting the quarried stone She grabbled the floor for her lost dagger until its cold hilt caressed her palm, but her huffing outlaw's hand captured her wrist once more. It was at this time that the iceberg in her chest thumped like a human heart. Elsa had no attention to spare for anything except the sunbursts in his eyes, the dizzying scent of cinnamon, the ovenlike breath on her mouth, and the hot crotch pressing between the open front of her pantalets. His panting pupils, which looked more alarmed by the circumstances than she, said, "I'm not going to hurt you," but her throat narrowed as the unbroken pressure from his groin stabbed her crotch with otherworldly tingles.

He reacted to her petrified expression by looking down―"WOAH!"―and jumping off her in a fit of embarrassment. "I did not mean to―"  

"He's attacking the queen," hissed the bloody-nosed lieutenant who was still sprawled across the floor. 

"Well, then...!" With legitimate fear in his face, Flynn turned away from the accusations being fired at his back to snatch Elsa's blade from her palm―"It's been charming!"―and then made a break for it. 

The wrist he had apprehended burned from his hand even though his grip had been gentle. Elsa slipped her trembling fingers under her nightgown. She mopped up the solution on her calf to dangle it in front of her eyes. The virgin queen kneaded the drop between two digits, watching it stretch, shrink, and disband like a sudsy rope of spit.

She was half-deaf by the time the bleeding lieutenant had relocated her to the halls, paying no mind to the way she carried her contaminated fingers away from her face. The horror of almost losing the life that was outlawed from human contact, paired with the peculiarity of her enemy not taking it, had paralyzed, aroused, and exhumed her humanity simultaneously.  

 

(when you don’t have anything warm at hand, even a memory can be a small substitute)

 

With daylight came inferno. Newspapers had put it down that she was ruined by rape on the grounds of her own secretion being found on her calf. Her hours after sunup were patrolled by guards who cordoned off the bedchamber, housemaids who curtained the sunlight until darkness swallowed her face, and regency councilors who insisted that she stay locked in her prison cell for an undeclared number of sunsets. She coped with the internment by scrubbing the venom off her vagina forty times a minute. With no consideration for her irritated red flaps, as pruney and hideous as she discovered them to be, the endless discharge kept sudsing them.

She was advised by her ladies to plug her hole with a cotton swab, but peeling sticky arms of fiber off her even stickier labia was uncomfortable, if not unbearable. When all else failed, her mania was redirected to rinsing the cinnamon from her pores in hopes of diluting Rider's odor. What water could not rinse was the sunburn on her body's memory. The squelchy soles of her damp feet padded over to her vanity mirror, where she slapped her tears off her cheeks, spun her hair into a bun, and promptly got dressed to see no one. (Hereafter, she thought she saw a glimpse of another woman in the looking glass, one who was gowned in permafrost and freedom)

The hours after sundown were spent rubbing her thighs together while she recited Papa's testaments on her bed. She tried to make the friction subdue the nub that still jutted from her puffy folds like a pebble. This double practice of suppression was rehearsed religiously in her adolescence whenever the demon stung to be stroked, but it failed to bring down the swelling forthwith. Her pink thimble, after twenty one years, had finally felt penetration, and it was now screaming at her to explore her femininity. Elsa's audience comprised of her father's painting, which grunted, "Queens were conceived to be resolute and chaste; they do not stick their fingers up their crotches like whores in heat," to dissuade her from defining for herself what it meant to be a woman.

The witch living in her blood commanded her to secede from how a queen should be in order to legislate her own doctrine before his damnable face. She itched to defy his reign over her ― to rub that hot venom back out ― to uncork every drop of elixir that would pour some heat onto her hands and destroy his buttoned up patriarchy, but by merely looking at her palms, her cause was conquered by the chilly reminder that she was inhuman, frigid, and shackled to her gloves for a reason, and no amount of friction could glean warmth from a frozen carcass. Her corpse tearfully adjusted its head on the pillow of her catafalque to look at the sea breathing into her window with a sound like fire. To and fro they clapped: foamy waves of melancholic monodies rasping up against the fjord's rocks only to be sucked back into Ægir's jaws. They repeated this ancient battle between overlord and servant each time they clawed the shore.

How soothing waves were, she thought. She loved their rowdy perseverance because it spoke to the firebird in her. Visions of tossing her gloves to the wind floated on her eyelids until they sank down onto her rouge cheeks. Excluding the black bodice, purple bolero jacket, and opaque stockings, she dozed off in her catacomb with her attire still laced on. The Halo Braid that had unraveled from her dome straddled her cheeks in long wisps, and the plait that was usually in a seashell bun napped on her shoulder.

So submerged was her consciousness, that her body didn't feel the sapphire button on her top popping free, or the wings of her blouse being opened from the collar. The breasts inside her short stays corset rose in response to a sun ray grazing them. That sun ray transformed into an appendage whispering up the chandelier of her collarbone, over the balcony of her chin, and across the panes of her mouth, where it tapped her lipsticked pucker patronizingly. The digit glided back down her throat like a fingernail on a map as it ran between her breasts. Inside the jiggly cleavage it dipped, pulling a chain from the jello.

Twinkling on the end brighter than Jupiter was her father's South Indian blue diamond.

"Ahhh," the holder crooned. "Alone~ at last..."

Another hand snaked behind her nape to fiddle with the clasp. Her eyeballs danced under their purple lids quickly, chasing the inchoate images of a dream unmanifested. A different source of heat suctioned her mouth, unleashing enough flames to burn her whole skeleton down to the last icicle. It kissed the loneliness from her lips, licked the secrets between her teeth, and sucked the melted rime off her tongue. Her eyelashes began beating with the speed of hummingbird wings.

The burning sunset surfaced from her slobbery mouth to sigh and peck her nose as the lariat's chain slithered off her shoulder. "Sorry about all this, Your Majesty..." Hot hands much bigger than her own two feet rucked up her skirt to access the emerald embroidery on her petticoat. Crying for him between the soaked lapels of her pantalets was an unexpected beggar: the milk-white hymen of her vault.

"A closer look wouldn't hurt." Like a pair of tongs, her stunned infiltrator used two fingers to peel apart the gills that curtained it, revealing the oyster's shiny pearl. "My God," he whispered breathlessly. "That has to be the most beautiful thing I've ever laid eyes on." He pressed his shaky thumb against the crown jewel no prince had ever claimed, dragging it downwards so that the organ could bobble back into place and throb from the applied pressure like a live animal.

Her rapid eye movement increased. He resumed by petting her swollen bud with the featherlike strokes of a paintbrush, coaxing her slit to quiver open and squeeze out one dewdrop at a time. The tremors under her skin paraded across her forehead. Drunk off her heady scent, he rubbed the outside of her inner lip with his thumb, sawing the nail bed against her clit.

"O-Oof," she moaned, shivering. Something thicker than water surged up and gushed out, squiggling down her thighs until it dampened her anus. "A-ah...ha..." 

"Oh, sweetheart," he husked, watching her leak like a faucet. "You're soaking wet." His shaking pointer was parked at the front of her flooded entrance to embark on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, but it halted before it could enter that gilded sanctuary.

"Please," she panted raggedly, subconsciously begging to be cremated by him.

The lariat's chain was poured onto the lamp table. "Your Majesty's wish is my command." He stretched her pulsating flaps with his finger and thumb, pinning them against her outer labia, which convulsed just as violently. After making his forefinger wet enough, he pushed it inside the key hole of Arendelle's most inaccessible safe.

―oh―

Her mouth stretched open as her back curled slowly, matching the pace at which he penetrated.

―my―

Clawing at her pillow for relief, she rolled her face into her hair. "H-Hah...!"

―god―

Ovenlike breath whisked across her throat as his finger impaled the top wall under her mound over and over. It worked in harmony with the thumb that stabbed her clit. Tears soaked her silk pillowcase. She could neither cool down from the inferno reeling through her nor catch her breath. Each inhale stacked on top of the other until she was making erotic mewls that only dogs could hear.

―yes―

She met his thrusts with her own by arching her hips off the mattress. Clapping flesh and slick squelches slapped the air as he finger-fucked her into oblivion.

―yes yes yes yes yes yes―

"Open your eyes for me..." His gentle kisses sprinkled down her wet cheek like a warm mist in the summer hours of dawn, raining into her mouth to bite down on the rosy lips that petaled it. A second finger was added into the creamy mix, and her inner yolk broke.

Veins bulged from her throat. With one spasm, the tendons in her thighs were electrocuted, and her body went into a paralysis that made her loins erupt into solar flames.

He withdrew his drenched hand from her petticoat to settle for stroking her silver eyebrow as her mind lolled. Beefy lips puckered against her brow bone. "Sweet dreams, Your Majesty." Having extorted her orgasm, his hand pulled down her skirt, pulled her corset's cups over her nipples, and buttoned her blouse. The shadow on her face walked away, and gone went the burning sunset.

Fire was still attacking her pelvis as her undammed reservoir flowed all over the sheets. When she awakened to the cool breath of daybreak kissing her cheek, the river had already dried up, and left behind was only the sediments of a dream....a dream filled with what had been banned from her since childhood: warmth. It was just about horrifying how different she was under this delusional preoccupation. It had almost completely covered the stench of death in her mind. She spent less time reading macabre and more time leaning up against the sunset as it warmed the windowpane. 

Whenever the gold nugget clunked into the ocean, she would unglove a hand to hover her palm over a candle flame, cup the heat in her hand, and then push it inside her chest to save it there, letting the heat thaw her frozen heart. She knew that her cells were a buildup of black holes, but she never understood till now what black holes must eat in order to fill themselves: suns. So headless was she that she hadn't even noticed the lariat's absence. This fever colored her black and white days with amber for a little while, but as all fevers do, it broke, and she was reminded again of the reason why she was so numb on the next day:

"On the thirtieth night of this month, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna were delivered of a royal princess at Arendelle Castle. The princess, a flaxen-haired beauty, weighing seven pounds, bore the esteemed moniker of Elsa...."

With the tiara of her mother's diamond parure sparkling on her scalp, she watched her prime minister deliver his speech between the shoulders of the Regency Council's elders. The latter all but teared up at this early birthday tribute as if it meant something. Each eye-patter knew he boiled to say: 

"But never had I dreamt that this daughter of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna, this adamantine maiden with no agog, had even so much of a heart as to be moved in the least degree for another, least of all for her own kingdom. She has no consideration for marriage, love, or motherhood, and never explored experiences that would light a spark in her otherwise cold existence. A reclusive spinster is all Arendelle shall crown." 

And they would have clapped and hurrayed, because the person who should've been in the seat beside her would've made a better uterus than she. That person, however, was no longer of this world, so she stood from her chair to "thank" the only guests she had: councilors, housekeepers, and two sentinels. Seeing the limited number of reluctant attendees made her sick. She imagined them all raping her and cutting off her genitals to bring her staked body to a nearby cafe, where it would be laid in front of customers who were asked to kiss the frozen lips of the queen. Her fading halo found itself being bent into the shape of a hanger by the unforgiving witch who urged her to growl: "I didn't ask for this, but I'm here now, and I've given myself completely, yet still you ungrateful vermin demonize me." 

But she could not go-off script. She had to remain zipped inside the costume of a docile, dutiful queen who loves her people even though they do not love her. Pitifully, that wasn't enough to keep the bulging teeth in her zipper from threatening to burst. If only that damn thief had been here to ruin her "dinner party"...

"Your Majesty...!"

She went blue in the cheeks at the sight of her prime minister. He was half-standing and half-sitting with his steak knife pointed directly at her heart from across the room, prompting everyone else to turn. 

"With all due respect, Your Majesty,"―an ovenlike blast of breath tickled the curls on her nape―"they're actually looking at me, not you." 

Elsa spun around with her hands stapled to the table behind her, coming nose to nose with the heathen who'd turned her castle into a circus. His Apollonian beauty, which validated his highborn background, only came second to his close proximity in significance to her.

Rider called himself making bedroom eyes at her with one hand on a rope and the other under his chin. He briefly uncurling the latter to wiggle his fingertips. "Hi." 

The instant she cowered, an almost concussive pressure crashed against her teeth. A deep moan purred into her mouth ― a humming rumble that exploded her thoughts into sunspots. She didn't realize that her marrow had turned into oatmeal from the radiation, that her bones were cake batter, that he was drinking her dry, or that her hand was reaching for the broken buckle on his doublet to reel him in. She gasped for oxygen as his lips peeled off hers like a wet sticker, taking the strands of her saliva with them. Everything after that wrecking-ball kiss was just a muddle of water-colors on a wet canvas. The sword that came lunging at her didn't register in her brain as anything more than a foggy splinter until it nailed her skirt to the floor.

"Your Majesty!" Kai bellowed. 

She gasped and flew backwards, forcing the dress's thigh to tear open. These developments mortified her audience more than the French kiss had, and the same could be said for her.

The longsword was yanked out of the wood by the household's sentinel, who cried to be aiming for the fugitive, not Her Serene Majesty, but, "he was reeled back up into the skylight with your tiara a microsecond after I swung."

Unable to bear the humiliation any longer, she wrapped her arms around her ribs and ducked under everyone's eyes, sniveling her way to the staircase. Her pattering feet jogged up the steps, tottered into her bedchamber, and kicked the door shut behind her. The household resumed its daily routines without her ghost haunting the library for two days, much to the Regency Council's preference. However, she wouldn't open her door for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and she ignored the oversoon presents sent to her study from the Southern Isles, much to the council's exasperation. One thing and one thing only baited her out of her cage, and that was the recapture of the lecherous Lucifer.

Chapter Text

 

༺⛓♕⛓༻

“Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility."

Jane Austen   


On Thursday, the Minister of Justice received the queen in the drawing room. Her apparel was the color of death, and the blood vessels in her eyes were identical to cracks in broken eggshells.

"We have arrested your violator and rescheduled his sentencing for the first light of dawn," said the old man. 

The brittle scarecrow of a woman nodded anemically. Her invitation to Flynn Rider's extermination had arrived under her door well over two hours ago. Elsa only rose from her two-day-old grave after rolling out of her own arms to the sound of Kai's calls. From there, she peeled her face off the sheets and scooted down to the bottom of her bed, where she finally met her own corpse in the mirror. The bangs crowning her head were kicked up into the style of a cockatoo's crest, and the jagged gash in her sky-blue dress revealed an obscene amount of leg that beguiled her for a time.

It was not Elsa, but it was Elsa ― a chaotic, feral-looking Elsa without modesty, rectitude, or order, and somehow she saw beauty in the beast. That was, of course, until flashbacks of the fifty-eight hours before silted her reflection with muddy visions of Flynn Rider's smirk, a sword swinging over her head, and her body balling up into a cocoon for two foodless days. She had responded to the recollections by viciously working off the dress and stuffing it inside her laundry hamper. As of the present, she couldn't decide what queered her more: the forty-eight hour coma she had dropped into, the nudity that the sentinel's imbecility had subjected her to, the imbecile Rider had made her out to be, or the imbecile she had made out of herself by wishing him into being. 

"You'll be happy to know that he has no way of escaping this time, Your Majesty. However, seeing how he couldn't have pulled off that skylight trick all by himself, we did not track the men he was working with. I suspect that they already crossed the border without him." 

Elsa's head stayed hung like a swan's.

"And, we also invited an..."unexpected" ally while you were indisposed."

At this, the size of her eyes quadrupled, and the hanging head lifted. "What do you mean by unexpected...?"

He somberly closed his mouth and bobbed his head at the opening door. Hers ticked into that direction―

―"May I present His Royal Highness, Prince Hans of the Southern Isles." 

Kai's bell-tower voice tolled in her ears so loudly that she thought blood would spurt from them. Evidently it hadn't, because her body was rotating on its own accord. Out of the two blurry aliens in front of her, one of them was a two-legged animal of regal pedigree, and a curiously docile one for his breed. His evergreen eyes bespoke a temperament easily adored and hard to repulse, with much in him that was gentle, civil, and kind. He could not be hailed as handsome given the rodent ears, the caveman chin, and the scimitar nose, but he was immaculately groomed to the last buckle, with a body that upheld the sturdy figure of a fox-hunter who was in good kilter. 

A startling leap of awe and angst jumped into the lad's eyes after her gaze finished ranking him. He appeared to have wanted to apologize for his very existence, but couldn't fix himself to blink because, upon God's word, here stood Europe's uncapturable white stag, and to behold her was to behold Yggdrasil. 

"...Your Majesty," his plummy voice undulated with reverence and restraint. He placed a hand over his heart to complete his bow. "It is an honor on behalf of the Southern Isles to extend my warmest congratulations on the momentous occasion of your twenty-first. Arendelle is deeply fortunate to have a successor who can ensure that justice conquers greed, skulduggery, and corruption in its kingdom." 

She did not blush, giggle, or smile at the flakes of dandruff in his scalp. Her expression was closed, cold, and pushing this charismatic stranger out, so her minister urged her to look and be demure to keep him in. "...Thank you," she quietly remarked, something he was bound to take as coyness. "I...appreciate your kindness and sincerity with the utmost gratitude...but what is it that has brought His Highness to the Kingdom of Arendelle?" Her skepticism was not hidden. 

The prince began editing his response before delivering, "My father ― I was ordered by him to contribute my services to Arendelle's Crown." 

She stood incredulously. Suitors stopped serenading to her veiled balcony a millennium ago, yet her regency had let this nutcracker mosey into the castle the second she'd fallen "indisposed." It could not have been for any other reason except insemination and wardenship. As the tabloids said, who would want to fertilize a "ruined bitch with no heart unless the feller appeals to the council's desperation? The thief's penis has already hollowed her out." How thoughtful it was of her breeders to mate her with the last crustacean at the bottom of the barrel, which was a thirteenth son from a kingdom with no relevance beyond its allegiance to Arendelle.

The Minister of Justice decided to have a word when no word from him was wanted, "The prince's contribution was Flynn Rider's head. As the best swordsman in the Southern Isles, he answered our woes and played a miraculous part in the bounty hunt last night," he lionized. 

That felled her. "...You're the one who arrested him?"

"I arrested his ego," he shyly deemphasized. 

She reevaluated his contents. It took half the infantry to catch that fox and only half of Hans to defang the same canine with cheap jabs. This importation of information was, to her, a shipload of reckless bravado and sadism on par with the thief's. Implications of what he didn't mention included the immobile arm dangling beside his thigh. He made an effort to hide it behind his back after he noticed her scrutiny. 

"I've known a thing or two about him after years of tracking his behavior in the Southern Isles," he redirected. "I even volunteered to assist the King of Corona as his bounty hunter, but the offer was never taken."

Her frown rocketed up to his face. "...Corona, you say?" 

Prince Hans was puzzled. "Your uncle's kingdom is where he comes from, Your Majesty."  

She slowly closed her eyes before glaringly opening them to her minister. 

To her embarrassment, he made it his prerogative to apologize for her ignorance instead of his, "Her Majesty has been removed from many ongoings in the natural world. King Frederic doesn't even bother to write to her private secretary."

"Then let it be known that Flynn Rider has become an increasingly pressing problem in Europe," the prince gravely disclosed. "There are very few coronations he hasn't spoiled, very few princesses he hasn't ruined, and even fewer heirlooms he hasn't stolen for corrupt politicians. He foiled Corona by stealing the tiara of Her Majesty's cousin three years ago, and worked his first jewel heist in Arendelle as a sixteen year old scammer when you were only eight winters old. That was before he gave the public such a foolish name. Now he has added Queen Elsa's chastity to the list."

Two clenched spots swelled and grew red under the corners of her mouth. 

Her minister leaned in. "And that is why Her Majesty will be on her way to his arraignment at daylight."

Speaking in a low voice, Prince Hans bowed from the neck to declare most passionately, "Then may the criminal who violated your maidenhood be flayed and hung for his offenses against Her Majesty's honor."  

She squeezed the side of her folded hand. "...Would His Highness be opposed to joining us?"


A small entourage of infantrymen convoyed Prince Hans and Queen Elsa to the Birch Forest beyond the fjord. Heels and hooves clucked through the blue mists of dawn billowing along the bank. Elsa's reintroduction to the outside world of spraying orcas, hooting owls, screeching elk, caterwauling lynxes, and snorting stallions grew agonizingly claustrophobic. Her expectations had constituted of being escorted to an execution on the outpost of the mural tower.

"The prince and the council believed this would make Her Majesty feel better," alleged the Minister of Justice.

"And what is that?" she drawled caustically. 

"Live game," he gloated.

Three dun horses awaited her at the throat of the foggy forest in grey silhouettes: two with their riders, and one with a blanketed figure straddled across its back.

Elsa held out her palm. Captain Gyldenløve placed a dagger in it. Her gelding loped up to the riderless mare and parked perpendicularly, giving her enough space to lift the cloak with the gleaming end of the blade. There, under the ebbing shadow, lied her thief. He slept on his cheek with a beauty that was both vulnerable and angelic in expression, almost serene.

She never saw so helpless a face as the visage she hovered now. 

"An early birthday present packaged by myself, Your Majesty," Prince Hans self-congratulated. He stationed his Fjord horse next to her Friesian, which shook stars of dew from his mane. 

Elsa's eyelids fell by a millimeter. She stoically raised her eyebrow and cocked her head, nudging the flap of hair off Rider's nose with the dagger. A cloud of bruises in the shape of a fist empurpled his cheek, but there were no other signs of the battery she longed to see. 

"To see your arrant rapist shot to death in cold blood should be the best gift of all," her minister blustered.

She ambivalently watched her men drag Rider's body off the mare and dump it onto the hard earth like a sac of potatoes. They changed the position of their feet to strip him from head to navel with their hands. Oily slabs of muscle jiggled on his body as their fists wrestled off his smock and tore open what they couldn't. Elsa raised her chin and blinked her half-hooded eyes slowly, observing the dismantlement with discomfort and transfixion. Her soldiers finished their violation by collaring Rider with a noose. They shook the binds around his hands and ankles to test their durability one final time.  

Captain Gyldenløve stuffed a piece of cloth between Rider's teeth before condescendingly slapping his cheek and standing up. Another soldier tied the gag behind Rider's head. Prince Hans plonked down from his horse to unsheathe his sword with a shing. After walking between the walls of men, he stood over the thief. Elsa held her breath as the lowering weapon raised Rider's chin with its tip. 

"Countless bullions of gold stolen from my father and it takes a virgin queen for him to slip up," Hans mumbled, turning Rider's chin with the sword. "...He is no average bandit; I'll give him that," he said louder. "I have reason to believe that he is Prince Herbert's bastard gone rogue." His blade's arrow glided down the bridge of Rider's nose, drawing blood.

Elsa's eye held the reflection of Hans burying his sword into the skin of Rider's throat, which creased under the blade's pressure like a balloon that would pop if pressed any deeper. The flame-haired prince was neither the sweet gingerbread cookie who had smiled bashfully at first blush nor the paper cutout of her father in the image her iris framed. He was something rigid, cold, pitiless, and lionesque, and she wondered if part of that was for her, or if most was his true nature. Hans pursed his lips and spat on the man's forehead. The blinking blade was shoved back inside his scabbard as he removed his legs from their anchorage without removing his glare, carelessly knocking his boot against Rider's chin. 

Her aspiring warden bestrode his stallion and looked at her, but his desirable internee sealed her lips without making eye contact.

"This isn't the trial you promised me, Minister Björklund," she muttered while men ran past her horse with tottery pails of sloshing water.

"It is the trial you deserve," he procaciously corrected, intent on making sure Hans did not hear them. "Rider, on the other hand, does not deserve the honor of a public prosecution. It would balloon his ego far too much. This way, we can rid Her Majesty of his body for good without the media clamor he so vies to procure. One of our many mistakes was not tying up those agile feet sooner."

Prince Hans took attention to her distraught face. "...Does this arrangement displease you?" he whispered behind her ear, breath blowing the blond tendrils around it. "I'd understand if you didn't want to witness this gruesome act."

She kept looking straight ahead despite the effect his exhales had on her heat-deprived skin. "What displeases me is my regency's misleading distortion of what was promised, as well as their overnight allegiance to a man I've never met." Her accusation was oddly toneless and passionate in the same utterance.

He smiled incompletely, puzzled yet anxious to make amends, but not quite certain of the cause for such bluntness. "If Her Majesty wishes to have me returned to my kingdom, then I will make take my leave without hesitation."

There was something in the shape of his scarlet lips that she despised in that moment.  "...No," she coolly postponed. 'If he's as good as you all keep saying he is, then I want to see him escape this. Better yet, I want to see you duel him.' 

Sheets of water hit Rider's body. The bandit popped his eyes open to wiggle madder than a caterpillar on a hot stove. Somewhere between the theatrics, he rolled over and saw Elsa mounted on her black steed with her Elizabethan partlet, sky blue kirtle, and flowing train of skirts, looking as breathtakingly beautiful as Persephone as she stared down on his terror without any feeling of her own. His lids lowered sardonically as he dropped his temple against the wet leaves. The pose said, "Just my luck."

The captain didn't give him time to sulk. He ordered his men to hoist him into the air and hang him good―"Without strangling him. Keep the earth under his feet until the arrows have flown. After that, we'll ornament the tree with his body." 

He made a muffled, "Hm?!" and got to squirming. 

On Elsa's part, it was not death she coveted, but her heart was not hateless. He deserved to be punished for disgracing her, toying with her, putting her in harm's way, and shattering her icy reserve, yet what outclassed her lust for retribution was truculence. Like a rat under a cat's paw, she wanted to see what the rodent would do ― where he'd run; where he'd hide; how long she'd have to wait for him to gain some distance ― before she yanked him back to bat him across the floor all over again. Once he was good and spent from her, she'd interrogate him about his true motives, and then do with his testicles as she saw fit. 

Watching him die now would bring her no pleasure. Hans's mouth had promoted Rider as the Prince of Thieves, so she sat and waited for any activity that suggested he would spring into action and reaffirm his eligibility as an unstoppable crook. 'If you can't worm your way out of this, then you can't steal a coronation crown.'

―"Ready your arrows, men! Our queen doesn't have all morning."

What Elsa received in return for her captivation was a frightened face pleading, "Please don't do this."  

"Would Her Majesty like to do the honors?" Minister Björklund presented his palm to her. 

She turned her head to glance down at the red blindfold flickering in the wind.

Minister Björklund blinked. Prince Hans frowned.

"...I want privacy," she murmured, raising her gaze to his confused one. "I want one moment to be alone with him before he dies." 

Prince Hans and Minister Björklund looked at one another.

The former looked back at her and spoke up with the smile he must make when he knows doing so might bite him in the keister: "Your Majesty, if I may―"

"No, you may not," she scolded, stiffing him. "Now do as I asked and leave me be." 

He had the audacity to look hurt by her bitterness. 

"...As you wish," Minister Björklund acceded. He galloped away and ordered the captain to have the triangle of men aboutface. 

The prince stayed behind to frown at the regnant's profile. The sooner he realized that she would not lend him a gander, the sooner he squeezed his horse's stomach with his calves and cantered off in a cloud of dust. Elsa stared at her shoulder as they went. Reassured by the seeping silence, she dragged her soggy eyes up to Rider. He flinched.

Elsa's boots hit the floor. "...I've been thinking about you for days...."―her soles crunched on the leaves―"...wondering what would be the best way to teach you a lesson..." The long train of her kirtle slitherd over the grass blades. "You make a habit of this, don't you? Putting notches on your belt so your name can linger in Europe like an infection..."

The frequency of him batting his eyes increased in speed. 

"You like being caught just to make some grand escape for people to gossip about." She yanked the blindfold like it was a belt. "More than jewels, what you want is fame. The fame you'll have from getting past Arendelle's gates to steal whatever riches the world thinks I'm hiding. You'd become the most famous man in forty-four countries if you stole my heart in the process of that, wouldn't you?" 

Rider's eyebrows curled back against the wrinkles dimpling his forehead. He was starting to blink slower the closer she came, starting to take her in altogether when she stopped a hair away from his nose. Sunlight encased the strands bulging from her bun, turning them white in the glow. Her shifting eyes gleamed as clearly as cerulean crystals reflecting beams, and he gulped. She saw his chest swell up and shudder back down as he moaned at her radiance.

"But you're my fault," Elsa finished in that nasally alto of hers, "because I wanted you to happen to me."

His heavy eyes sank down to her red lips as she spoke. 

Elsa stared at his mouth underneath the lids umbrellaing her eyes. A drop of mucus surfaced and stood on the bottom of her ttrembling nostril. She looked back up at him. His gaze rose reciprocally. Without blinking, she leaned forward.

The last time she had looked into those eyes, amber rays radiated from the pupil like sunlight trapped behind a solar eclipse. Now they were sunless. She was nonetheless waiting for something to happen that wouldn't ― such as ropes snapping, or him somehow sawing through them with a hidden knife to dart off with a saucy, "I told you so." 

"Your Majesty..."

Elsa gasped and turned her head.

Her interrupter's horse was standing a decent distance beside her, but its redheaded rider was staring at her as if she had committed adultery. "Forgive me, but..." 

"Our morning council meeting is only so far away," Minister Björklund butted in.

The soldiers loaded their crossbows behind her.

"Wah-it..." The gag between Rider's teeth bobbed in his mouth. 

The frantic little heartbeat thumping in his eyes made hers stutter. She reluctantly yanked the gag down. 

"I wanna say something," he blubbered, running his scared eyes back and forth across hers. His voice bled out a dramatically different tone from the cocky purr she remembered in his love letters. It was melodious, deep, and almost kingly to the ear.

She tried to keep her mouth in a tight line. "Then say it before I lose my patience." 

The shadow of his face engulfed hers as he leaned in. Elsa fought the doe-eyed look of a little girl that was pouring into her countenance.

He husked, "You might wanna duck in about thirty seconds." 

Her breath hitched in her throat.

―Twish―

An arrow whooshed past her skull, cutting through the wind and tacking the tree behind Rider with a thunk.

"You fool...!" Minister Björklund roared. "I didn't order you to shoot her yet!" 

 

Chapter Text

 

༺⛓♕⛓༻

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome."

Jane Austen


Blood percolated through the gash on her temple. It stood on the split skin before crawling down her eyebrow. Rider's terrified face trembled in and out of visual acuity. As she turned around, the ring of the arrow that still sang in her ear spread to her temporal lobe. The pain magnified when Minister Björklund, who, possessed by some unnatural evil, chucked a stone at her skull to knock her down like a domino.

She did not feel it when her legs buckled under her, or when her shoulder hit the soil; the spinning treetops above were locked in an oval frame with vapor edges.

Underwater voices flooded the forest around her: "Shoot her and him, damn you! Shoot them!" 

Her gaze glided away from the earthworms beside her eyelash to hang onto the feet of her assassins. She could vaguely see Hans's boots scampering up to Minister Björklund's horse. Shouts raised and piled together; hands grabbed Hans's shoulders and pulled him away. Then two clear sentences from Björklund knifed through the six-inch glass between her and audio: "Kill Queen Elsa! Release your arr―"

―A rogue arrow shot Minister Björklund in the throat. His horse squealed. Down went the traitor, his cause, and the courage of his cabal.

"We're under attack!"

Mares neighed and shrieked. The leftovers of the infantry shielded themselves while more arrows swarmed them from both sides. Though Hans's feet were not yet in his stirrups, his frightened horse was backing out of the hellfire, but from behind it sprang a bearlike thug. Ignorant to the danger, a yell was ripped out of the prince's throat when a sickle sword slashed through his steed without warning. Hans rolled across the ground after his wailing horse turned turtle. 

The horrified prince crawled backwards as the grinning goliath shoved a soldier's face out of his way. Growling, Hans snatched up his fallen sword in the same second that the thug raised his. Their swords clanked upon collision, flashing like a cross of light. Instead of bearing down on him with his weight, the brute paused to gawk at the prince's limp arm. Hans shoved him away with one heave of his weapon and climbed onto his feet. 

The thug stumbled back, thoroughly blanched and befuddled ― but by what, Elsa didn't know. The slipping queen accrued little time to decipher anything beyond Rider belting out behind her:

"'Cuse me, gentleman? Yes, hi! I'm in a bit of a bind here. LIT-teral-ly!" 

The ruffian groaned at the cocooned bandit.

"Sometime ta-day, please!" 

Giving Hans one last once-over, the Irishman fell back to help Rider. The assailant firing arrows emerged from the boulders to charge through the small infantry with two cutlasses.

"What'n the world took you so long?! What were you doing, picking dandelions?!" the thief yammered. "I could've been a goner by now―" 

"Be quiet," his ally snarled. "You ain't ever been worth the trouble." He stuck his dagger under the ropes and cut them clean. "Now where'd you let 'em take that satchel?" 

"It should be in the castl ― Hands. HANDS! You forgot about my hands!"

"Handle it yer'self, Rider." His partner tossed him the knife.

Rider caught it between his palms and began sawing away. Elsa watched the thug's feet make the pebbles jump as they galumphed past her face. 

After wearing them down to the threads, Rider broke his binds with his wrists like they were rubber bands. He rerouted his worries to the giddy queen. "This is bad. This is really bad." His shadow umbrellaed Elsa, who was glaring at him under her flickering eyelids.

"You knew..." Mucus streamed from her nose as she tried to speak ― curse, perhaps ― but she only managed to muster out a hiccup that tore into sobs.

"You're gonna be okay ― it's gonna be alright." The hysterical thief mowed her forelocks off her temple to see her wound. "Oh no," he breathed.

Whimpering, she craned her head up to look at him while her body rocked. "Pl―ease..." Her lips shivered between the strands spiderwebbing her face. "...Don't kill me..." A single tear wiggled out and stung her cheek.

Every muscle in his face softened and hardened at once. He looked at the mayhem in front of them before frowning back down at her, and then his puppy eyes took on a sad ― one daresay kind ― expression. "Jus' hold on, aw'right?"

(you didn't have to, but you did) 

"I'm gonna get you out of here." Rider scooped her up, making sure that her head fell against his naked bosom. She numbly studied the strands of hair that sprouted from his brown areole while he carried her as far away from the battle field as his own beaten body could tolerate. Taking refuge behind a thick waterfall was their only source of respite. Her back touched wet rocks, and then her head.

"My cavalry arrived five seconds late, so I didn't think yours would actually be the one shooting any arrows."

She blinked up at what she could see of him. The sun rays that splayed out around his pupils glowed amber in the darkness.

"Not that I have any obligation to you after the warm welcome you've been giving me ever since I arrived, but my conscience seems to take issue with..."―Flynn tossed his cowlicks out of his face to search hers for other lesions―"...leaving beautiful damsels in the middle of a combat zone."

She wanted to scoff, but her chest hurt too much. For all of his attempts at lightening the heaviness he felt, he didn't look remotely amused. 

Rider's trembling hand nudged the curls that were glued to her bobbing red throat. He then opted to dab and dry the bloody slit on her head with a shredded piece of damp fabric from his smock. "I'm sorry," the outlaw murmured gently, "but there's not much that I can do in my position..."

Elsa gazed at him deliriously, striving to move her flaccid lips. 

"But don't you worry, little lady." Rider seized her wrist and tucked a chunk of smock into her fingers before balling them back into her palm. He pushed the palm against her temple. His eyes shined with solicitude. "I'm sure your knight in shining armor will get you fixed up in no time a lot better than I can right now..."

She couldn't wrap her head around his meaning in time because his body heat abandoned her side after squeezing her glove. Elsa gritted her teeth and turned her face against the damp limestone. Her palms gripped the surface angrily, followed by her elbows trying to unbend far enough to pull her body towards the forest. She was eyeing her scared horse, whom one of the soldiers had tied to a log whose distance confirmed their plan to isolate her. Before she could drag herself further, something anchored her to the same spot.

Elsa didn't need sight to know there was a boot standing on the bottom of her train.

"And jus' where do y'think you're goin', Yer' Majesty?" the owner cooed. "Got somewhere ta' be?"

"...Wait," Flynn said from wherever he stood. "This isn't―...Stabbington, DON'T―" 

―THWACK―

Pressure. Throbbing. Ringing. The illusion that the sky was on the floor. That her skull was cracked open with her jellyfish brain being eaten by crabs. And the blood sinking down her eyelids...the blood...the blood...

"Don't die."
"Don't die."
"Don't die."
"Don't die."
"Fight the pain."
"Fight against the limits and break through—"

'...But why?'  

Vision went static. Progressively dying out to the point where all she could hear were clipped words on the other side of the ether:

"Are ― you ― out of your MIND?! D'you have any idea what you've just done?! Elsa―" 

"Shut up, take her, meet us at camp, and don't start undressing her until we get there, Rider."

"This wasn't part of the plan! I came here for a job, not to have a queen's blood on my hands!"  

 "This is part of the job. You'll be dead meat either way. Now get her on that horse or else I'll skin you myself." 

Her lifeless body was picked up by burly arms and thrown against a smaller man's beating heart. Everything onward was sucked into a tornado of gravity, noise, sensation, and heartache. The gravity of the world bouncing up and down, the noise of a panting horse, the sensation of a goatee tickling her forehead, and the heartache in the distant holler from the battlefield: 

"Queen Elsa!" 

. . . . .

. . . . .

. . . . . 

. . . . .

. . . . 

D

  a

    r

      k

        n

          e

            s

              s.

                Arendelle doesn't exist here.

      Her father doesn't haunt her here.

People can't hurt her here.

The past, present, and future don't matter here.

She is frozen in time. Trapped in a galaxy of frozen fractals. Umbrellaed by starless vaults of freedom. She is almost certain of having seen a faceless apparition in the ether, of having heard a deep voice echo down the bright tunnel of a wormhole, of having felt a sunburned hand cup her cheek, but then everything thawed back into a shapeless mass of nothing, and so she thought nothing, too.

"El~saaah~!" a lighter voice sings her name from within the black yonder. It is irritating and it is childish; it is repulsive and it is persistent; it is cheerful and it is home. "Elsa?"

'Go away.'

"EL―sah!"

'Go away, Anna!'

Because she would rather not come up for air. She would rather not care. The crown. Coronation. Her life that she never owned. Her life that she never lived.

She. Can't. Care. Anymore.

But the call from home echoes over and over in the filthy sewers of her mind. She is beginning to see visitants that aren't there: a staticky circle of faces ― so many faces ― looking down their hairy nostrils at her from the snouts of mean, witch-nosed bishops. She sees a sepia-colored motion picture of her father's boots plodding through the rain behind a horse-drawn casket. She sees her eight-year old legs run, trip, and skid against the mud. She sees her body twitching in the puddle like a crushed waterbug as ministers walk around it.

" Papa..."

She sees the blood from her broken nose mix with the rain, creating a runny bloodbath for the earthworms to swim in.

She sees her drunken father slamming her back against her bedroom wall.

"What have you done, god damn you?" he sobs. "What devil compelled you to take away my last hope for a normal life?!"

"It―It―It was an accident!"

"You lie!" He shakes her."You envied her! You hated her because she was what you weren't!"

She did. And she was devastated by that. Traumatized by that. Haunted by that. Denied that.

"You murdered your own flesh and blood! You have caused your mother's grief to derange, starve, and mute her!" The color in his face explodes from red to purple as his mouth foams with alcohol."Your monstrosities are irreversible, and your wickedness is unforgivable!"

These were the words that she kept gritted between the fingers of her fist...

The next scene shows him trying to hug her in a sober state, apologizing for blaming her, and swearing that he knew her curse was not her fault, but, "something must be done about it." Gloves are slipped over her trembling fingers. The following fade-out is succeeded by a vignetted image of her eleven year old form curled up in the corner of her room. Behind her glimmers a tree of ice on the wall.

"I both fear and hate the demon that skitters between the bones beneath your flesh..." Drops of liquor drip from the empty bottle in her father's hand. He persuades her to stand up and join him in the castle's blacksmith shop, where a towel of heated iron sits on the table adjoining the furnace.

She is instructed to sit on the workbench and place her gloved palms on the wood. He plucks two nails from a nearby box and sets his bottle down. Shaking, she hiccups on bone-wracking sobs until she is asked to be quiet and part her teeth. Fuzzy fibers of cotton tickle her tongue as he places a rag between her lips. Her eyes shine up at him with confusion gleaming on their glass balls.

"The nails will help." Her father waves a hammer above the nail biting her hand. 

Her greasy mouth whimpers against the fabric as she shuts her eyes so hard that the stinging skin resembles the texture of raisins. He brings the hammer down. Octagons of light multiply into sunspots on her vision―

"Elsa, wake up! Wake UP!"

Elsa sprang awake. Looking through a curtain of tears, her eyesight tried to identify the objects beside her as she hyperventilated, causing misshapen contours to become green clouds with no definition. It adjusted to the shapes and discerned them to be apples in a wooden bowl. Beside the bowl blinked a golden goblet with a bloody rag dangling from the lip. Her optical telescope panned skywards, enabling the little millions of rods in her retina to produce a clearer analysis of her surroundings.

They relayed to her brain that the fangs roofing her were the chandeliers of a cave. Its stalactites and flowstone scintillated with glow worms, creating oceans of sapphire light. 

"We could get rich off that little goddess," a voice rumbled.

Her eyes darted from stalagmite to stalagmite until they landed on two men. The cyclops were sitting on a pair of limestone pillars with their backs to her and their heads down, both deep in talk.

"There are a lotta scorned princes out there who'd give an arm for a frozen heart," one snickered.

The other stropped a sickle blade on a belt. "It's not her heart that they want."

"Rapists pay just as good; doesn't matter."

She let their wicked cackles resonate in her heart, slowly feeling their evil fill it with volcanic rage. Thirteen years of fear were replaced by twenty-one years of hatred ― a hatred for all of mankind and its barbarism ― and a precipitous lust to exterminate all who had wronged her. The witch she once entombed was now banging on the lid of her frozen casket. Frost percolated through her lungs and spread down to the veins in her wrists, turning them into bulging blue trees on her skin. Her cells froze over with her bloodstream as it eclipsed the continent of her heart, but the ice remained trapped in the frostbitten tips of her fingers, which suddenly weighed more than stone.

It required a furious jerk or two for her to realize that her wrists were tied together behind her back. Convinced that this was still not the blockade, she jerked harder so that she could free her palms and see them. To her surprise, the pressure on her wrists loosened.

"Come off it. You heard what he said. Keep 'er here for the big finale."

"And how do you know he won't tear us a new one when he gets here? Everyone is just another sacrificial lamb in his game. Blood don't mean nothin' to 'im."

Astounded by her luck, Elsa wormed her hands out of the ropes until they unraveled and fell away like spaghetti noodles. She then pulled her marred wrists in front of her face and saw that some of their threads had been chewed through by a knife. The name trembling in her eyes was Flynn Rider, but her pupils dilated at a discovery that pierced far deeper than his deed. Purple holes, which bore a likeness to meteor craters, stared back at her from the shaking palms of her hands, ungloved and exposed. Housed inside their pits were the rods of ice that had failed to surface, as if corked by the very wounds themselves.

―"The nails will help..."

She utilized the time between her paralysis and her panic to subsequently take in her condition. Her captors had stripped her down to her petticoat and short-stays corset, leaving her body partially unclad. Wheezing, Elsa tucked her fists under her armpits and searched the cavern. A map laid out by the scattered remains of her stomacher jewelry, partlet, pantalets, and kirtle led her to the muddy fingers of her crumpled gloves.

"We won't be the ones participating in the showdown, remember?"

"You think that'll be good for us? Letting Rider take the fall?"

His twin held a sapphire earring to the skylight. "We won't need 'im anymore after this."

Tugging on her manacles, the hostage flattened her body when the ground shook from the earthquake of one twin landing on it. She crawled backwards on all fours, sliding herself behind a stalagmite to press her spine against it.

"He never got the rest of the South Indian parure or any of the second sapphire parure."

"We got more than enough to retire with. That bald-headed weasel can get as mad as he wants. Won't make a difference."

"Then let's sleep off some cramps before he gets back. Those soldiers are probably still out there."

"What about the girl?"

Her breath fanned the forelocks veiling her face as she shook.

"She's a piece, ain't she? Got a figure like Aphrodite."

"...Too small," his twin scoffed. "Her cervix would tear open."

"Never been a problem before."

"We're not supposed to lay a finger on 'er, so save her virgin blood for little brother's silk sheets. This is his prey, after all."

Bubbling with revived fury, the queen doffed her manacles to look down her nose at her shaking hands. She balled the fingers against the heels of her thumbs and grunted. Mucus popped in her nostrils as she strained to uncharnel the hurricane her father had tried to stab out of her. Elsa uncurled her digits as rime needles began to seep up through the lines of her palms, but the higher the tiny spires rose, the more her hands bled. She broke her concentration to gasp for air and gawk at the coral-hard barbs, all of which were coated in blood.

Elsa watched them shrink in height until they created a glittering trail that glinted like stars. She whimpered lightly. The useless fingers were wiggled back inside their sheaths. Clutching the wrist of her fist with tears sliding down her nose, Elsa glared over the shoulder of a stalagmite to watch the men who were now stretching their arms for a nap. Two daggers and a cutlass flashed behind a lit lantern.

―"Shut up, take her, meet us at camp, and don't start undressing her until we get there, Rider."

Driven by enmity and bloodlust, she edged into their camp and shakily picked up the sword when they were asleep. The weapon was raised over her head as she stared down on her assaulters with the left side of her face crosshatched by a shadow that framed her madness. Pursing her lips together, Elsa lifted the cutlass higher and plunged it down―

A hand clamped around hers.

Her pupil shrank into a dot.

"You don't want to do that."

She was too possessed by her own demon to gasp at the sound of Rider's voice, or quail in fear from the sensation of his hand squeezing her glove.

"Just let me have it," he whispered, ostensibly trying to defang her by soothing her.

Tears tumbled off her chin and onto her breasts, the eyes they fell from blazing with smothered wrath. The sword remained shaking in their double grip because she was still trying to bring it down. His other hand held her ribs, pressing right under the shelf of her breasts, and his damp cheek remained sticking against the bangs that feathered her temple. Rider's feverish skin was glued to hers like a hot tongue on dry ice, echoing the temperature eating through her gloves. The sunspots she started seeing assumed the shape of a yellow flower, but as if it had been whacked by a stick, the petals exploded like a pinata, stirring her to snap out of her trance and float back to reality.

"If you let me have it," she heard him murmur, "I'll get you out of here."

Another tear was blinked out of her eye before it dropped on her cheek.

"I promise."

Her body shook against his. Had she shoved Flynn off by propelling her body backwards, the scuffle would've startled the man beneath her. Had she let the cutlass go, there was still a possibility that he would go back on his word, but she would at least live long enough to develop a plan. Elsa closed her eyes, held her breath in her pharynx, and released the cutlass one convulsing finger after another.

"That's it," he exhaled into her ear. "Just like that."

Her bleeding gloves hovered away from the handle, giving him the chance to slowly lay the sword down without removing his hand from her rib. He turned her around by her waist as her nostrils, lips, and suspended hands quivered. The flaring holes of her nose were buttery with mucus, but she could taste his scent in her mouth, feel his breath blowing against her eyelashes, and hear his pulse in her eardrums.

"Elsa..." the name was said with the intimacy of one who knew her.

Her eyes popped open. The chiseled countenance before her conveyed deep remorse and concern ― the concern for one human being from another, and his eyes were as warm as the lily in her mind. Staring at them made her hate them. Want to gouge them out. Make them bleed.

'What reason does he have to be kind now and not when I was taunted?'

Rider looked down and then jumped back. Confused, she looked down as well. So numb and bloodless were her hands, that she hadn't realized he'd pulled off her gloves. In a moment of panic, she looked at the sword by his foot―

"What the hell's this, Rider?" a growl demanded.