The horrible moment, now lifetimes ago, flashed through Elsa’s mind vivid and real. Just a small girl, thrown into the snow by two armored men, climbing to her feet to see the tall, smug Winter Witch looking down at her with Nazhena’s face. The sneer taunting Elsa with the confirmation that the girl’s life had shattered to pieces. Elsa would never forget that moment as many miles as she may travel.
She murmured something and drew back her icy wand in a sharp motion. Strands of steam curled around the rough edge, twisting out of the now-fallen Nazhena’s open neck.
Elsa stood, and this time, it was she who looked down, then away. She turned her back as the blood began to pool like a halo, walking past a steeled Edan as he drew his blade for a darker purpose. Her eyes fixed on the chicken-legged hut, feeling its presence and power as she was sure it was probing hers. She didn’t turn as she heard a series of hollow thuds, metal on bone, blood on snow.
She knew the Witch that had come for her as a girl was not truly Nazhena. It was a nameless woman, likely a mere courtier of the queen who Elsa would never see again.
But she was Nazhena. She was Radosek. And she was the guard captain from the docks. Elsa now understood better than ever, her head throbbing and her mouth still tasting of blood from her terrible fall, that there was no negotiating to be done and no game to be played. She was not a politician nor a diplomat nor a queen. Any quarter she may give would be thrown in her face and used as a weapon against her.
The nameless woman was Elvana, and the kingdom now towering over Elsa was not one to be incrementally changed or convinced of its wrongness. It was there to be burned away to ash and rebuilt, just as it always had every hundred years, just as Queen Baba Yaga had always willed it. Elsa clenched her hands, embracing the pain that always smoldered under her burnt flesh.
The dull thudding had stopped. She turned and looked around at those assembled – trusted allies, new converts, and Nazhena herself, head impaled on a shard of iron. The companions all knew there was to be no peace in Irrisen until Elvana had taken her final breath.
Elsa bent to pick up Mirin, held him tightly to her chest, and felt her feet leave the snow. She floated towards the door of the hut, fluttering robes revealing the dark mark on her arm stark against her pale skin.
She bid that the hut let her in. She was ready to serve her mistress.