Workmen dumped barrels of sawdust into the water, until it was a dark slurry.
“Make sure it’s stirred up for the Queen,” called Admiral Pyke to the workmen.He turned towards the queen. “I’ve found the proper ratio is about six partswater to one part sawdust by weight, your majesty,” he said with a gentlesmile. “But the mixture must be almost completely homogeneous to work as itshould.”
Elsa nodded politely. The Admiral was in his mid-thirties, but he somehowseemed younger than her, even if he was really ten years older. He had ahealthy enthusiasm for ships in all their glory, and his office was decoratedwith small models that he’d made himself. He’d once joked that they weresimply a grown man’s way of continuing to play with toys. That he was withoutwife or children added somewhat to his seeming youth.
Elsa watched the slurry being mixed around. The air was cool, as it was mostdays in Arendelle. The experiment was taking place in a drydock, which hadbeen filled with a very specific amount of seawater for their purposes. Theworkers used long paddles from a ship to stir the slurry around. When theywere finished, Pyke nodded to Elsa, and she raised her hands for a bit oftheatrics.
Her power coursed through her. She could feel the chill in the slurry, and ittook but a thought for her to begin the process of shaping the water into ice.She didn’t need her hands, but of course there was the usual group of gawkersand rubberneckers that congregated nearly everywhere she went, eager to see ause of her famed power. It was better for them to have a story that they couldtake home, and so she waved her hands about and let off small jets of snow asshe shaped the ship.
“It may be hard to form ice, your majesty, as one of the many properties isthe slow rate of melt,” said Admiral Pyke, but by the time he’d finished hissentence the ship was already halfway built.
In the early years, they’d tried making ships from plain ice. Shipbuilding wasa difficult and labor-intensive process, and having Elsa craft a ship fromnothing but seawater would have been a great boon to not only the navy ofArendelle, but to the merchant fleet as well. They had tried it, but the icewas too prone to cracking and melting, even with a number of variations they’dexperimented with. Elsa could make a small rowboat, but anything larger wouldcrack the moment it hit rough seas.
Pyke called the new material pykrete, and it was invented to address theearlier problems. It would still be a ship for cold waters, and wouldn’t lasttoo long if taken south in the summer, but if the pykrete ships worked outthey would save the country a small fortune. It was amazing what a littlesawdust could do when added to the ice.
Elsa built a ship from the blueprints Pyke had given to her, a heavy ship thatwould take a crew of thirty. There was much more to a ship than Elsa couldmake with ice, at least if she wanted it to survive away from her continuousinfluence - pulleys, ropes, and sails would all have to be made to fit out theship. It was a start though, another ingenious use of her power, andunfortunately another way that the people of Arendelle were made dependent onher.
“Do your tests, Admiral,” said Elsa with a nod after the ship had been made.She’d crafted struts for it that would snap as soon as the drydock wasflooded, and the ship stood gleaming in the sunlight. Elsa had added a fewembellishments to it, and if not for the fact that it was made of ice andsawdust it might have been a match for any ship in the Crystal Sea. If Pykewas right, perhaps it would overcome its humble origins. “I look forward toreading your report.”
“You’re not staying to watch?” he asked. He wasn’t quite able to disguise thehurt in his voice. She knew that he had an affection for her that went aboveand beyond the normal admiration and respect that her subjects displayed. Whenshe remembered, she wore her ice dress higher when she was around him, keepingthe throat of it closed and her breasts fully covered, a more demure look thanshe would naturally tend towards. Pyke was handsome and intelligent, a goodnatured man with much to offer, but of course it would never have workedbetween the two of them. He’d never made a move towards courting her, but shewasn’t sure whether that was because she was his superior or because of simplefear of rejection.
“I have a meeting with the Duke of Weselton,” said Elsa. “But I look forwardto seeing your report on how the ship holds up under stress. In its final formwe’ll have more in the way of reinforcing support, but - well, you know whatneeds doing.” She offered him a smile.
“Yes, your Majesty,” Pyke replied with a faint smile of his own.
Pyke was far from the first man to pine for Elsa, and she was fairly certainthat he wouldn’t be the last. Most people treated her with deference, and somewith awe, but there were certain men who had an admiration for her. They likedher power, not simply the title of queen, but the raw power of her magic. Somepeople coveted it, and some wished to exploit it, but others like Pike simplywanted to be close to her, to see where the ever increasing power would takeher.
She didn’t doubt that some men found her attractive in her own right. She madeone wall of her room into a mirror of ice every morning, and took a long lookat herself before dressing. She was pale, with hair so blonde it was sometimesmistaken for white. Her skin was flawless, though whether it was because ofthe cold that permeated her to her core or simply a gift of her birth shecouldn’t say. Pretty, yes, but even when she was resting and calm there wassomething in her nature that she could see might keep people at a distance,and it wasn’t just the enormous amounts of power she wielded.
Walking back to the palace was an exercise in keeping up a smiling face andpretending at humility and grace. By and large, the people of Arendelle lovedher. Her power had given rise to a booming economy, and peace and prosperitylike the kingdom had never seen before. Anna and Kristoff were more loved, ofcourse, and Elsa had allowed them to take up as many of the traditional royalduties as possible. Anna opened the market in the morning, and Kristoff wouldsmash a bottle of wine against the prow of a newly made ship. Elsa wouldconsign herself to the library to work out a better tax policy. They allplayed to their strengths and worked together in harmony to keep the kingdomhappy. Anna and Kristoff had three children now, and so had less time to visitand idly talk. Anna could often be seen carrying her youngest around town withthe two older children following close behind.
Elsa often told herself that she wasn’t lonely.
When she had finally made her way through the mindless chatter of her subjectsand her hands had been warmed by shaking a dozen hands, she closed the doorsto the Great Hall behind her and made her way up to the sitting room. Olaf wasin front of the fire, roasting a marshmallow as his own personal storm cloudkept him from melting.
“Hiya!” he called to her. His marshmallow combusted as he looked at her with agoofy grin.
“Hello Olaf,” said Elsa with a sigh.
“Aw, what’s got you down?” asked Olaf. “It’s a beautiful day!”
“I’ve been thinking too much,” said Elsa.
“Never been a problem for me!” said Olaf.
“Have you seen the Duke of Weselton?” asked Elsa.
“He’s in the library,” said Olaf. He turned back towards the fire, not seemingto mind that his marshmallow was a blackened cinder, “Do you ever think thatbooks are like a marshmallow?”
“No,” said Elsa.
“Yeah, me neither,” said Olaf.
The library was one of Elsa’s favorite places in the whole of the palace, andthe Duke of Weselton sat in the chair right next to the one Elsa had worn agroove in, waiting for her.
“Did you know,” he said as she came in, “That the princess of Corona had thepower to heal people with her hair?”
“I did,” said Elsa with a nod. “She lost the power when her hair was cut, if Irecall.”
“And yet it raises so many interesting questions, doesn’t it?” asked the Duke.“How did the magic know what a healed person was like? How did it know what tofix and what to leave as it was? If a person lost a finger, would the magichave known what to make a new finger look like? It was fabled to even have theability to reverse aging, yet how did it know to remove the wrinkles andtighten skin? It suggests either that the magic could read the intentions ofthe princess, or that there is some true platonic ideal which the magic washewing to. The princess wasn’t a surgeon of course, and yet it’s claimed thatshe could heal a broken bone or even internal injuries without knowing thespecifics of what was actually wrong.”
The new Duke of Weselton took after his father before him in many ways. He wasshort and wiry, with thick glasses and a moustache that bordered onridiculous. Where his father was an arrogant and greedy military man, the newduke was energetic and boundlessly helpful. He’d taken the title two yearsprior, and had spent much of his time in Arendelle since then, almostexclusively in the company of Elsa. His name was Quincy, but for the most partthey called each other by their titles.
“I suppose you’re going to relate the healing hair to my own power?” Elsaasked.
The duke blinked twice. “Why of course I was. You see, the central questionhere is one of agency and intellect. Does your cryokinesis have some guidingintelligence of its own? Olaf can know things that you don’t know, but if thebrain is indeed the seat of the soul, what then of a snowman without a brain?”
“Have you ever thought to come to me without questions?” asked Elsa.
“Where would be the fun in that?” asked the duke with a smile. When she didn’treturn it, he frowned. “What’s the matter?”
“This power,” said Elsa. “I look out over my kingdom and I see a thousand usesfor it, perhaps a hundred of which I’ve put into practical application. Yetpart of being queen is looking beyond the here and now and instead thinking ofwhat the kingdom will be like in two or three generations. What becomes of thekingdom when I die? If I were killed in the middle of the night by anassassin, entire industries would collapse.”
“Surely you exaggerate,” said the duke. “The kingdom existed long before you,and will exist long after.”
“We’re gradually putting ourselves in a position where the entire kingdomdepends upon my power,” said Elsa. “The kingdom of old was robust, but thekingdom as it stands now is built on the possibilities of limitless ice andsnow. What happens when that foundation crumbles? What will the kingdom dowhen the houses that I’ve built of ice begin to melt after my death? If I dieat eighty, will anyone even remember how to harvest ice from the lakes forthemselves?”
“My, you really are in a mood,” said the duke. “You worry about the diplomaticaspects as well.”
“It wouldn’t do to discuss that with one of the parties in question,” saidElsa with a small laugh.
“We are your stalwart allies,” said the duke.
“And it has nothing to do with the prospect of facing me on the field ofcombat?” asked Elsa.
“That’s part of it,” said the duke. “There are benefits to being your ally,and a great many reasons not be your enemy. More than seeing you stalkingtowards a fortress with scythe made of ice and crystalline armor, we worrythat you would simply visit an eternal winter upon us. You could bury ourkingdom in snow and ice from the safety of your palace, and we could donothing to stop you. Eventually we would either be force to capitulate or dieof starvation and frostbite. If I said these scenarios didn’t factor into ourcalculations, you’d take me for a fool or a liar. But I have to say that themore we get to know you, the better we like you, and the happier we are theyour power would fall into the hands of someone as kind and just as you are.”
“Do you feel that I’d be swayed by such simple flattery?” asked Elsa. Yet shecould feel herself buoyed by his words, and her dark mood began to leave her.“What did you come here to talk about, anyway?”
“Can’t a man come for a simple chat with his favored queen?” asked the dukewith a smile.
“Not in my experience, no,” said Elsa. “You want me to try something with mypower again?”
The duke nodded. “The ice mills worked wonderfully, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” said Elsa with a slight frown. “But it’s yet another way that thekingdom grows dependent upon me.”
The ice mills sat on the edge of town. They were designed much like awatermill or windmill, with a large central shaft that was used to operate anynumber of things - an oscillating saw, a grinder to turn wheat into flour, aloom to spin fibers into thread and weave thread into fabric, or a dozen otherthings that could translate the simple spinning on the axle into some kind ofuseful work. The difference with the ice mills was in the form of motivepower. Each of them had an ice beast that stood two stories tall and spent itsday turning a crank. The practical effect was that Arendelle had more millsthan all the neighboring kingdoms combined, and even without a pykrete fleetit made a good deal of economic sense for other kingdoms to send their rawmaterials to Arendelle to be transformed into finished goods. If the tests ofthe pykrete went well, it was quite possible that Arendelle would beresponsible for nearly all of the milling within a few hundred miles.
“We don’t know for certain that the snow beasts will evaporate or cease theirmovement in the event of your death,” said the duke. “It may well be that theycontinue on, giving you all the more incentive to make as much as possible.And - forgive me for saying it your majesty, but we don’t know for certainthat you can die in the first place.”
“Ridiculous,” Elsa said, though she’d had the same thought every so often.
“I’ve known you for six years now, more or less,” said the duke. “You haven’taged a day. The physical effects of your magic are unknown, but an immunity tothe cold and a lower body temperature might only be the tip of the iceberg, ifyou’ll forgive the pun. But that’s not what I wanted to discuss - I wanted totalk about Olaf.”
“No,” said Elsa.
“I haven’t gotten around to asking my question,” protested the duke.
“I know what it will be,” said Elsa. “We had the same conversation withregards to the ice beasts that power the mills. I agreed to make them becausethey would have no driving intelligence, no consciousness and sentience. Olafis something else, a living creature with his own thoughts and feelings. Iwon’t create such a thing lightly.”
“I don’t ask you to,” said the duke. “But surely you can see the benefitsinherent in creating a workforce. The people of Arendelle wouldn’t have to dothe dangerous jobs of mining and hunting anymore. They could spend their livesin leisure.”
“And in exchange, a new race of slaved golems would take up their work,” saidElsa. She shook her head. “There’s a reason I haven’t created any more icecreatures like Olaf - and him I created on accident.”
“Then make Olaf better,” said the duke. “Please, this is such an opportunity,I’d be remiss if I didn’t try my best to convince you to expand your powers.”
Elsa was silent for a moment. She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed.“Better how?”
“I don’t know,” said the duke. “Stronger, faster, smarter, more focused -better.” He’d gained enthusiasm as they talked, and was now animated with abubbling energy. While she didn’t appreciate the pressure he was applying,this was how she liked the duke best. He could become a man with an expansiveimagination and a clearly visible passion.
“I’m not going to change his mind around,” said Elsa. “No more than I wouldchange your mind around if it were in my power.”
“Even if that’s what he wanted?” asked the duke. “Even if he requested anenhancement?”
Elsa paused again. “Maybe then.”
They made the trip down the wide hallways of the palace, back to the sittingroom where Olaf still sat roasting marshmallows. He couldn’t eat them, sincehe had no stomach, so instead he’d simply set them in his mouth for a bit andlet them melt his snow before putting them back on the stick - which was hisleft arm, in fact.
“Olaf, do you want to be smarter?” asked Elsa.
“Boy do I!” said Olaf with his dopey smile.
“You do?” she asked.
“The reindeer keeps beating me in checkers,” said Olaf. “And he doesn’t evenknow how to play.”
Elsa turned to the duke, who nodded.
“Olaf, I’m going to try to change you now,” said Elsa. “Is that alright withyou?”
“Sure!” said Olaf. “But I’m not even wearing my diaper.”
“No, I’m going to make you smarter,” said Elsa gently.
“‘kay,” said Olaf.
Elsa turned to the duke again, who had a giddy grin on his face. Sheconsidered Olaf to be a living creature independent of herself, but she wasone of the few people who felt that way. The others couldn’t feel the powerthat Olaf had, a small shard of herself that was settled over him like acloak. She didn’t feel lesser for having Olaf in the world, nor for havingcreated Marshmallow or the ice beasts that ran the mills, it was more likeshe’d copied a small part of herself to power them. They were of her, andwithout experiencing that sensation for themselves, most people would simplyassume that her creations were only puppets propped up by her in some way,even after she’d explained it to them. Making ice was one thing; making lifewas another.
She reached for that shard of herself, a reflection of her childhood, craftedby accident without her having even known about it. When she closed her eyes,she could see it clearly, the embodiment of the time that she’d spent withAnna in the Great Hall.
Elsa didn’t know quite what she was doing, but she pressed on anyway, tryingher best to add in more memories of an older girl, one who spent a great dealof time with her nose in books, studying the histories of the kingdoms tolearn the lessons she’d need to be queen. Olaf’s mind wasn’t an ordered thing,or even all that predictable. Instead, it was a chaotic swirl of parts ofherself, along with new pieces that she could only imagine had been createdfrom whole cloth as he lived out his life. All of it was bound together by herlatent power. After a few minutes she had added everything that she couldthink to add, and she pulled back from Olaf, who had been standing therepatiently.
“Done,” she said with a breath.
“Do you feel different?” the duke asked Olaf.
“Nope!” said Olaf. “But I don’t really know what smart feels like, so maybe itdoesn’t feel like anything at all.”
“We should run some tests,” said the duke. “But perhaps we should have run thetests before any modifications were made in order to get a baseline.”
“I love tests!” cried Olaf.
“Can you do math?” asked the duke. “I mean, could you do math before?”
“Math?” asked Olaf with a raised eyebrow. “What’s that? Can you sum it up forme?” He laughed long and hard at his own joke. “But no, I can’t do math.”
“I’ll explain the basics to you, and we can move from there,” said the duke.
“We’ll leave him be,” said Elsa. “I don’t think it worked.”
“No?” asked the duke. “Well, that doesn’t mean that we can’t try again withanother creation.”
They left the sitting room, and the duke idly chattered away about futureplans and a world of possibilities ahead of them. Elsa cast a look back atOlaf. She’d felt something happen. Though the duke was a close friend, hedidn’t need to know everything. Elsa would watch the changes herself.
Author’s Notes: Pykrete is a real thing, though it was invented in the 1940sduring World War II instead of whenever Frozen takes place. It never sawwidespread use, for a variety of reasons - mostly because the war ended. Youcan see it in action in Mythbusters episode 115.
The question of when Frozen takes place is a fairly interesting one, but forthis fic it’s assumed that it takes place sometime between the 1750s and1850s. It at the least post-dates the invention of the sandwich, mentioned inthe song “Love is an open door”. Also, the giant snow golem is named“Marshmallow”, and the modern marshmallow wasn’t invented until the 1800‘swhen it became the snack we know and love today - and actually became whiteinstead of being made with oats. The lack of firearms in favor of crossbows isa little curious given that timeline, but whatever.
Sorry if I spammed your e-mail with story updates - kept eating myformatting, and I didn’t realize it was so zealous about sending out updatesfrom a repost.
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