"People of Duloc, Welcome..."
Elsa knew that she was falling in love.
She had no idea why. If someone had introduced her to Farquaad in her youth as potential husband material, she would have been adamant that he could never be her type in a million years. And yet, here she was, falling.
The sunlight woke her, and she was surprised to find her husband already awake, wrapped in a dark red robe, and fixing them both a drink at the bar. She blinked, turning over and realising that her hair was a mess, and that she must have fallen asleep almost instantly after their love-making. Almost shyly, she pulled the covers around herself as she sat up and when he turned to look at her, she felt herself blushing.
“Refreshment, my Lady?” Farquaad asked, approaching the bed and holding out a glass to her.
Elsa managed a nervous smile and took it. “Thanks,” she said, softly. “Last night...that was wonderful.”
“You weren’t too bad yourself,” Farquaad replied, which made her giggle, and he smiled at her. He took her free hand in his, and she tensed automatically, but he didn’t seem to notice as he turned her palm over and stroked the length of her fingers. “You shouldn’t cover your hands, Elsa, they’re beautiful.”
“But if I don’t, I could lose control and hurt someone,” Elsa sighed.
“Has that ever happened before?”
“Once, at school. I caused a girl to break her leg when she slipped on the ice. I mean, admittedly, it was a girl who I didn’t like very much anyway...” Farquaad chuckled at that and she smiled, nervously, “but...I don’t want it happening again. What if I hurt someone I actually cared about?”
“I don’t believe for a second you could,” Farquaad said, softly. “Or if you did, they’d still care about you.”
“What if I hurt you?” Elsa asked.
He squeezed her hand. “If that happened, I’d know you didn’t mean it. Elsa, you are not a monster just because you have this power. If you chose to use it to hurt people, well, then you would be, but you don’t. There’s a difference between hurting someone accidently and hurting them deliberately.”
Warmth flooded through her when he said that and she returned his squeeze, too moved to get her voice above a whisper. “Thank you.”
Farquaad nodded. “Now drink up. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us, I’m afraid. I’m running the Annual Knights Tournament today and the whole town will be attending.”
Elsa smiled and sipped her drink. “A lot of jousting and swordplay, am I correct?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it will probably be very boring for you.”
“Oh, no, on the contrary, I find jousting exciting.”
Farquaad was surprised by that; she was the first woman of noble blood he had ever met who did. Of course the women in the crowds always cheered, but he had always assumed that that was more to do with the pack atmosphere, and that fact that it was something they only ever got to see once a year.
“Come on, then,” he said. “Let us eat and then judge. For once I won’t be sitting up in the top box alone except for the guards. I will have much better company.”
He made her laugh, Elsa realised, that was what she liked, and there was no denying that he was certainly charming. And so far, he had been nothing but good to her, making her feel better about her powers and actually talking with her, not like some husbands who usually took their wives to bed and then largely ignored them afterwards, at least until they wanted something.
He was different. And she felt that was a good thing.
This, she realised, could work.
Automatically, when she dressed, she pulled her gloves on, and when Farquaad gave her a mock disapproving look, she blushed and confessed “I just feel safer with them on in public.”
He shrugged. “Well, whatever you feel best.”
They walked into the dining hall, which was deserted, except for one butler who hurried quickly to serve them breakfast. Everyone here seemed very friendly, Elsa noted, although slightly nervous around Farquaad. She wondered if he could be temperamental when it came to running Duloc, or whether she was mistaking fear with respect. At any rate, she couldn’t imagine him being anything other than good, and it made her heart rate speed up a little just to be sitting near him.
After breakfast was done, she followed her husband out onto the front balcony of the castle. From her position she could see the entire courtyard and the open country just visible beyond the castle walls and outside of the open gate. There were two seats already waiting for them, and as she approached, the guards bowed to her.
“Your Highness,” they both said. “Welcome.”
“Thank you,” Elsa replied, politely, wondering which seat was hers. Her unasked question was answered, however, when Farquaad indicated that she should take the one on the right. She smiled and sat down, watching a couple of young squires run back and forth, fetching and carrying for their masters.
“Those lances look incredibly heavy,” she said, conversationally. “Are they?”
“Quite heavy,” Farquaad replied, “but then jousting isn’t supposed to be an easy sport.”
“No, I suppose not,” Elsa agreed, smiling.
“The trick for any good knight is to work on their upper arm strength,” Farquaad replied. “A good fighting arm, light footwork, speed and concentration, those are the four major skills they need.”
Elsa nodded, taking it all in, and praying that it would only be for tournaments that any of her husband’s knights would ever need to use those skills. The thought of the getting pulled into a battle with a neighbouring kingdom or something was rather scary.
“It looks like they’re ready to begin,” she said, nodding to the waiting knights.
Farquaad got to his feet and signalled for a fanfare that made Elsa giggle again, he was doing this with so much flair.
“People of Duloc,” he announced, “Welcome, to not only this year’s Annual Tournament, but also the first Annual Tournament I spend with my new bride.” Elsa blushed and looked up at him, not sure whether she was touched by his mentioning her or not. “I trust that my knights will make it a good one in her honour.” The crowds cheered at that, all looking up at her and clapping, and Elsa ventured a nervous wave in their direction. “Now, let the jousting begin!” Farquaad finished and the people clapped some more as the two knights began to charge one another. Elsa sat up a little straighter in her chair as lances met and armour crashed to the ground, feeling a thrill run through her. It was all very exciting. A few times the horses fell, and she gasped, hoping they were alright, and then, to her relief, they would get back up again and carry on as if nothing had happened.
“Don’t worry,” Farquaad said the third time it happened as he noticed her worry, and reached across to take her hand, “they’re specially trained for this. They can take falls without injury.”
The jousting was followed by archery, which was followed by armed combat, which was followed by a hunting game (that involved riding towards a target with a spear and trying to hit the bullseye) and finally a launching of a flaming trebuchet to end the games. When this was done, each knight that had won a game was rewarded with a prize of gold, and it was down to Elsa now to present them to each winner.
“Congratulations,” Farquaad said, followed by each knight’s name, and then Elsa handed each their reward. Each knight would bow to Farquaad and press their forehead to the back of Elsa’s hand as a mark of their respect and loyalty to her before turning to be cheered by the crowd. “And now,” Farquaad added, proffering his arm to Elsa, “we feast!”
Tables almost the entire length of the courtyard were brought out and everyone sat down to enjoy a delicious meal, for which each person thanked “Lord Farquaad and the Princess Elsa for this fine feast,” upon receiving their share. Her husband was more than just respected, Elsa realised, he was admired too, and this only served to fuel her affections towards him even further. Each knight and guard and servant looked up to him, and every single townsperson seemed content with his ruling.
By the end of the day, she felt tired, but happy, and was asleep the second her head touched the pillow, without even bothering to undress. Farquaad tucked her in without her even knowing he had done so, and for a while, he watched her sleep, wondering if he had made the right decision in marrying her. She was so...innocent. He had yet to see what her powers could do, but judging by the way she described them, they were very powerful indeed.
They could, in the right hands, be used as a weapon.
Or in the wrong hands.
Days began to pass, and the more time Elsa spent in Duloc, the more she began to feel at home. The servants all liked her, always greeting her kindly and doing anything she asked of them without complaint or hesitation, and whenever she stepped outside the castle and into the town, she was always met with bows or cheering or both, which both flattered and embarrassed her. As often as she could be, she was by her husband’s side, and when they couldn’t be together, she explored the castle or the grounds. Each night, however, would find them both together and back in their shared room, some nights endings with them just talking until they fell asleep, others seeing them do a little more than that.
She had no idea if Farquaad loved her, but she did hope that he might. After all, she had always dreamed of True Love as a child, and perhaps this was the best way of gaining it, by falling in love with the one you married. Several months into their marriage, she was completely certain of her feelings for him, knowing that she would sacrifice anything and everything for him regardless of her own feelings. That was love, wasn’t it? Her feelings were strong and deep, and her heart kept feeling like it was going to burst out of her chest.
And then, everything changed.
She had decided to leave off her gloves, for once. Farquaad was always telling her that her hands were too beautiful to be covered up all the time, and anyway, they would be going to bed soon, so they weren’t really necessary. Whenever she was around him, she realised, she could control her powers, and she suspected that love had something to do with it. At any rate, she decided to see if her husband was finished with his political meeting yet and wandered through the corridor to the courtroom, where she was surprised to find the door ajar and her husband’s voice coming through it quite clearly.
“No, I’ve decided it’s too risky. And it isn’t fair to her. Elsa will have nothing to do with this power struggle.”
“But you know how powerful Prince Hans’s forces are, my Lord,” one councillor ventured. “Her cryokinesis-”
“I know what it can do!” Farquaad snapped. “It could easily win us this battle! Why else do you think I brought her here?”
“Then why the change of mind?”
“Do not question my decisions, Councillor! If I say she won’t be involved, then she won’t be involved, no questions!”
Elsa drew in her breath and stumbled backwards, backing into the wall. Her heart was racing, but in panic, and she felt tears spring to her eyes. That was the reason he had married her? To use her powers? To win a battle?
He didn’t love her.
She turned to leave just as the door opened and the councillors spilled out, Farquaad right behind them. He looked surprised to see her there.
“Elsa? Is everything alright?” He went to take her hand but she pulled sharply away from him.
“Don’t touch me! Please!” she gasped.
He blinked at her. “Elsa, what’s wrong?”
She turned tear-filled eyes on him, feeling her heart breaking inside, fragile as thin ice. “You were just using me,” she whispered. “For my powers.”
Realising she must have heard part of their conversation, Farquaad attempted to justify himself to her. “No, listen, Elsa, let me explain-”
“Explain what?” Elsa whispered in shock, backing away from him. She was beginning to make it snow, but no one noticed at first, not even the councillors as they stood awkwardly around awaiting Farquaad to dismiss them. “That you just wanted to use me as some kind of weapon? Like some piece of armour manufactured in a workshop?”
“Elsa, please,” Farquaad tried, approaching her again. “Just listen...”
“Just leave me alone,” Elsa said, turning away from him.
He grabbed her sleeve. “Wait, Elsa!”
“Leave me alone!” Elsa cried, without thinking, wrenching her hand free, her other hand lashing out accidently. Her powers unleashed themselves, striking Farquaad in the chest and almost knocking him off his feet with the force. The councillors gasped and ran to his aid as Elsa threw both hands over her mouth in shock at what she had just done.
“My Lord, are you alright?” one councillor cried.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Farquaad insisted as Elsa stared at her hands, and then, frightened by all the looks she was being given, the slightly alarmed expression on her husband’s face, the terrified looks from everyone else, she turned and began to run out of the castle.
“Elsa!” Farquaad shouted after her, but she just kept on running, knowing that she fled through the courtyard she was leaving a trail of ice behind her. She couldn’t seem to calm herself, however, and soon snow was whirling around the castle. Blinded by it, she pushed on, hurrying along until she stumbled, fell and then the reality of what had just happened caught up with her and she began to cry. At once, the snow ceased and she could hear soldiers shouting out behind her.
“Find her! Lord Farquaad’s ordered her brought back safe!”
Elsa scrambled to her feet and ran until she reached the safety of the forest and she could no longer hear them behind her. She pushed through, finally emerging into a clearing surrounded by blue flowers with red thorns growing on bushes and trees with wide, white trunks and limbs. There was no one following her now. She was alone.
She couldn’t believe it. She felt so many things; fear, shock, betrayal, and above all the worst pain imaginable, heartbreak. Farquaad didn’t love her, he could never see her as anything other than a weapon. How had she been so naively taken in by his charms, of course they had all been put on to lure her in, to make her think he loved her so that she wouldn’t suspect anything.
And what was worse, she realised, was that in spite of all that, she still loved him.
She pulled herself together and looked around her. She had no idea where she was, or where she was going.
Yes, she did.
She was going to the only place she could go now.
She was going to Fiona’s Tower.