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"You asked Papa if I was born with my powers, or cursed," Elsa said to the eldest troll, as Queen Brigitta worked at her embroidery nearby, keeping a watchful eye on Anna in her romp with several troll children, a very blond human boy, and a half-grown reindeer. "So curses are real, then?"

"Oh, yes. Curses are very real." The troll, whose name Elsa had learned was Pabbie, scowled into the distance before returning his stony gaze to her. "Tell me this, Elsa. Are most humans good, or evil?"

"Good." Elsa frowned. "Why?"

"Because." Pabbie gestured around him, at the round rocks which Elsa knew were slumbering trolls, at the little trolls currently being piled onto a giggling Anna by the boy and the reindeer. "Most trolls are also good. But like humans, a few are evil. And like humans, good trolls live together and help one another with their power, and evil trolls keep to themselves and hoard what they have, never helping anyone. So their magic grows, and grows, until they can do almost anything they please. And when someone crosses them…"

Elsa shivered, as the stories she and Anna loved to read together loomed large inside her mind. Boys turned into wild animals or kidnapped away to impossible castles, girls wandering the world dressed in many-furred cloaks or gowns made out of wood, were far less romantic when they became true possibilities rather than words and pictures on a page.

"Our Kristoff lost his parents and an older brother to the curse of an evil troll," Pabbie went on, gesturing towards the boy, who was now being sat upon by the reindeer so that Anna could return the favor by rolling the little trolls into a pile on top of him. "His father's sled, loaded with ice, flipped over one night in the woods, and a piece of ice slid free and struck the troll in the leg. An accident, of course, but the troll was furious, and followed the man home to demand recompense. But how many ice-cutters have gold or silver or precious stones lying about?"

"They wouldn't." Elsa got up to pace the stone-covered clearing, guiltily pulling in the bits of her power that were lining her footsteps with frost at her mother's soft cough and pointed look towards them. "So the troll cursed them, all of them except Kristoff. Which makes sense. If he was the youngest, they would want to protect him if they could. What kind of curse was it?"

"We do not know." Pabbie raised his hand into the air, creating amorphous red figures which swirled about the shape of a small boy. "Kristoff remembers nothing except awakening in the reindeer barn beside his friend Sven. His home had been destroyed, and of his parents and brother there was no trace."

With a little sniffle, Elsa burrowed into her mother's embrace. Brigitta set her needlework aside to hold her daughter close, stroking the pale hair and murmuring words of calm to her. "How did he come to you?" she asked Pabbie over Elsa's head. "I would have thought one of the other families in his village would take him in."

"To begin with, they did, but some of them were afraid that the curse might follow him. So the women watched after him less as time went by, letting him do whatever he pleased. Which happened to be following the ice-cutters out to their work, with Sven hitched up to the little sled Kristoff's father had made for them. And one day, coming back from ice-cutting, he saw something astonishing. Two horses, each carrying a grown person and a child, and behind one of the horses there lay a trail of ice." Pabbie nodded at Elsa's gasp of recognition. "Yes, Elsa, it was your family Kristoff followed. And when we saw him wandering in the woods with only a reindeer for company, we knew he would be safer with us. So here he has been ever since."

"I'm glad he found you." Elsa turned in her mother's arms to watch Kristoff, who had formed a defensive alliance with Anna and Sven against the tickle attacks of the besieging troll children. "He looks like a nice boy, and he deserves better than being all alone."

"What will become of him when he is grown?" Brigitta asked curiously. "We could always help him to find a place, if need be."

"The offer is appreciated, Your Majesty, but unnecessary." Pabbie bowed slightly in thanks. "Kristoff intends to follow his father's trade, and we will make sure he has the means to get what he needs for that work. Of course, if you wished to hire him to supply ice to the palace, once he is competent enough to merit such a post…"

"We will certainly think about it." Brigitta glanced back at Anna, who was expertly poking trolls away from her two- and four-legged allies with a long stick, then down at Elsa, who seemed torn between joining in the fun and staying to listen to the conversation. "Why don't you go and see if they would like a bit of snow for their game?" she suggested, kissing Elsa on the forehead, then releasing her. "You can practice keeping it within limits. Only as far as the trolls tell you is their play area, no further."

"Yes, Mama." Elsa returned the kiss, curtseyed politely to Pabbie, and picked up her skirts in both hands, the better to run towards her sister and her playmates.

"You worry about her," said Pabbie, following Elsa with his eyes. "Although she has her powers far better under her control now than once she did, still you worry."

"Would I be a mother if I did not worry?" Brigitta sighed, watching her older daughter raise her hands to summon one of her tiny, localized snowstorms. "She will not always be able to maintain this level of control, especially if she is ambushed by the unexpected. Which is one reason why I will be happy to speak with my husband about having your Kristoff come regularly to the palace once he is grown, and our bringing the girls here as often as possible before then. If he becomes firmly established in their minds as their friend, and they in his, then it is far more likely that he will tell them those things which a seller of ice may learn in his travels that it would be well for two princesses, or a princess and a queen, to know."

"Already looking that far into the future, I see." Pabbie narrowed his eyes at Brigitta. "Is there a reason?"

"Not a particular one." Brigitta folded her hands in her lap. "But Elsa will be queen someday, so it would be foolish not to plan for it. And a queen, be she never so beloved by her people, needs someone to tell her what those people are saying. To be sure their hearts are still with her, and have not been frozen into indifference or even poisoned by hate."

"Indeed. And a queen who has a power which may startle or frighten her people will need that all the more." Pabbie nodded his stony head. "I am sure your husband has his sources for such information."

"He does, and many of them. Including a few he is visiting even as we speak, in the guise of 'Gunther the Hunter'." Brigitta smiled, thinking of the commoner's persona her husband had long since established, and her own matching one as the skillful keeper of the hunter's simple home. "Once he is finished, he will come back to meet us here, and we plan to take the girls away for a few days of simply being ourselves before we return home for the grand celebration of reopening the gates."

"And Elsa's powers?" Pabbie gestured to the newly-constructed ice palace across the clearing, atop which the elder princess of Arendelle stood, trying to maintain a harsh and lofty demeanor as befit a Snow Queen, though this was somewhat spoiled by her incipient fit of giggles as the troll children, Anna, and Kristoff danced around the castle making faces at her. "Will you tell your people they exist?"

"I think…not yet." Brigitta sighed. "It may be unwise to hide such a thing, but it might also be unwise to expose it. No one denies that magic exists, but at the same time people are wary of those who work magic, and for good reason. In the wrong hands, or used wrongly, magic can cause terrible trouble. Even my own sister and her husband…" Her voice failed her momentarily as she gazed at her daughters, beautiful, living, safe. "The magic they sought out saved my sister's life, but it also lost them their child while she was still an infant," she said when she could speak again. "They have never stopped hoping that someday she will be found, but I cannot imagine how they bear it, day after day, year after year."

"Has the sorrow driven them apart?" At Brigitta's shaken head, Pabbie held up a finger. "Then that may be how. With love, all things are possible. Though a bit of good hard work never hurts," he added, as Elsa extended her hands over the front gates of her palace and spread a soft sheet of snow across the ground.

"Here is my challenge to you," the young Snow Queen announced in ringing tones, creating seven flat pieces of ice in sizes and shapes familiar to Brigitta's eye. She had often seen Gunther work on similar puzzles, both to keep himself calm in troubled times and to sharpen his mind for further thought on a complicated subject. "Fit these shapes into the three outlines I will give you, with nothing overlapping and nothing left behind, and the doors of my palace will open!"

Anna and Kristoff sat down at the edge of the snowfield, using the reclining Sven as a backrest and gazing intently at the first outline Elsa had drawn in the snow. Two of the troll children, whose stony hands were less subject to the cold, moved the icy shapes as directed by the humans or their fellows, while Elsa leaned against the parapet of her castle to watch.

With a small smile, Brigitta picked up her needlework again. Life might not always be so peaceful as it was at this moment, but for today, this was enough.

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Author Notes:

As you can see, I'm going with the fanon that the royal families depicted in Frozen and Tangled are related. We may even get a bit longer of a cameo from Rapunzel and Eugene at Elsa's coronation than we were granted in the movie. To everyone who asked if Kristoff and Sven would come into this story, yes, here they are, and they'll absolutely be around more in chapters to come. As for Hans and Olaf…patience, grasshoppers. These things take time.

One entirely new character will be introduced next chapter, though if you follow my blog (Anne's Randomness, housed at my website, annebwalsh.com) you may already know about that. We'll also be touching on one of my favorite little motifs, that being, it's fine and dandy to be a princess, but not to be a helpless princess. Which no, Anna and Elsa never were, but let's continue that excellent progress in the right direction, shall we?

I am going to do my best not to let this story languish for any more multi-month periods, but as anyone who's followed my writing for a while knows, I can't make promises. I do have a pretty good idea where it's going, though, so here's hoping I can pull it off! Thanks, as always, for reading, and I'll see you next time!

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