Her cold hands gripped the bars over the window of her cell, icy tendrils snaking out from her fingers and coating the rusting iron.
She stared blankly out onto the town square, and though much of her purview was blocked by the mourning crowds, she knew what passed through them.
The coffin, strewn with whatever flowers had been salvaged from the frostbitten country, was being carried to a stone platform near the front of the masses.
She could just make out the form of the trader she had seen with her sister when they had found her atop the North Mountain just a few days before as one of the pallbearers, though his expression was obscured from her sight.
I should have come back with you then, Anna.
She wished, futilely, that she could cry publicly along with the other mourners—or that she could cry at all.
I don't deserve that luxury.
She pried her hands away from the frozen bars and forced herself to look away from the scene, withdrawing back to the hard straw mattress atop her prison cot.
Her eyes found themselves drawn back to the pair of gloves that had been left for her by the small opening in the cell's door two days before, and her gaze narrowed at the memory of receiving them.
"Don't even bother trying to escape, your highness."
He had spoken to her in such a scathing tone that it chilled her just to think upon it, let alone remind herself of why he had said it in the first place. She shut her eyes, hoping that if she kept them closed for long enough, the gloves would be gone by the time she opened them again.
"You only have yourself to blame for this—she'd be alive now if it weren't for your cruelty towards her."
Hearing his voice again in her head, her blue eyes snapped open—and found, to her dismay, that the gloves remained in the same place as before.
I can't do this again.
She remembered saying that to him when he'd offered her the gloves in person with an outstretched hand, her body cowering from them as if they had been dipped in poison.
"You have to, your highness. It's for your own good."
Somehow, he had reminded her of the late King and Queen when he'd said that—reminded her of her years spent in solitude and fear of her own powers, and of herself.
I thought I had finally escaped from all of that.
She reluctantly leaned over, brushing the edge of the sheepskin gloves; after a moment, she finally grasped them more firmly, placing them tentatively in her lap.
"Good people of Arendelle!" a voice thundered from outside, startling her in her seat. She looked back towards the window, desirous to look out of it again.
"No; you stay where you are."
The recollection of his voice stopped her in her tracks, and—in spite of the overwhelming impulse to ignore it—she stayed in place, just as he'd ordered her to.
"Today we gather to mourn the passing of a princess too young and too beautiful for the awful fate which befell her—our dearest Princess Anna, to whom we must all give our blessings so that she may pass safely into the next realm."
The words cut deeply into her, nearly breaking her determination to stay still.
Oh, Anna—you didn't deserve this.
She swallowed her urge to cry, squeezing the fabric of her dress tightly in her hands. She didn't dare touch the gloves then, knowing what her power would do to them in that moment.
"You'll put them on, sooner or later."
He'd said it with such disdainful certainty—not that she could blame him. She had, after all, caused the death of his fiancé-to-be; she supposed it was understandable that he should hate her now.
"You'll do it for Anna—and so no one else has to suffer the same fate as her."
She grit her teeth as the head priest continued his wailing eulogy for Anna outside, wanting, more than anything, to cover her ears and block out the noise of the countless thousands that cried for her departed sister.
I don't want this. I don't want this.
The wind howled as she shut her eyes, and the whirling gusts momentarily overwhelmed the sounds coming from the funeral procession.
"Do you see now what the late Queen Elsa has wrought upon this beautiful kingdom?"
The wind suddenly came to a standstill, and shocked murmurs ran through the crowds.
The voice—now recognisable to her—continued in its plaintive, warning tone, entreating to the public.
"We must all do what we can now to unite and bring peace to this country again—and to pray that it shall be forgiven by the gods, and that summer will return."
Her body was stiff from the cold, though she had known that this pronouncement was coming.
"Yes, your highness—I'll make the announcement myself at the funeral."
His emerald green eyes, once bright and full of joy, had been as icy as her own in that moment—the moment when her fate had been decided.
Why can't you just let me leave?
Her fingers trembled as they fiddled with the gloves again, though she still couldn't bring herself to put them on.
"If they knew you were still alive, they would never stop hunting you. As long as you're here, you're safe from them."
Her stare turned hard and bitter.
But not safe from myself.
His dark, hollow timbre was still as clear as daylight to her.
"You're not fit to be a queen, Elsa; nor would you be able to survive in that wilderness on your own. Consider this cell a form of . . . penitence for your crimes."
She choked on the sobs that caught in her throat, threatening to spill forth; still, she would not allow them to, placing a pale hand to her lips.
Penitence for my—my crimes.
It was hard to form the word in her mind, let alone to say it aloud. She grasped the gloves tightly to her chest, and looked desperately up at the grey ceiling of her cell.
"You will be forgotten, with time; and so, too, will your errors be mended when I rule in your stead, just as Anna had wished before her death."
She turned the gloves over, one by one, until both faced her palms-up.
I will be forgotten.
Shaking, she slipped one over her left hand.
Anna will be fondly remembered.
Hans will rule in my place.
Finally, she slipped on the right glove, and her hands relaxed, ensconced by wool.
This is my fate.