A/N: Suffering from a severe ASoIaF hangover, I come up with this. AU, set in a medieval parallel world of sorts with human!Jack, human characters (i guess i haven't written much at all) from Rise of the Guardians, Frozen, Brave (no HTTYD because I haven't watched the second film), a whole bunch of OCs, magic, weirdo creatures, etc. Heavily influenced by A Song of Ice and Fire, I will be following the third person PoV scheme, with the narrator specified in the chapter title (except the prologue and the epilogue when it arrives).
The prologue is from an OC's PoV (one I intend to keep around so get used to him :P). You'll figure out soon enough.
The sacks fell to the floor with wet thumps, and their bearers had drawn their daggers.
Sir Alexander's squire had already wrinkled his nose in anticipation. The boy was but twelve, thin and sickly, but he had a good stomach on him, and his aim was good. Regardless, there were times when Sir Alexander missed the robust Robert, but the spotted pestilence had taken him in the last spring.
"M'lord?" The large man holding the largest sack had a voice rougher than his accent; Alex had trouble understanding him. "Sha' we go a'ead?"
Alex prodded the bag with the toe of his boot. "What are you waiting for, then?"
The man nodded. Simon the Squire looked away.
Alex looked to the boy when the daggers dug in. As the ripping ceased, no smell hit his nostrils. He forced himself to swallow the bile and glance at the spilling contents of the saclk.
"What in Hell—?"
The big man looked to the knight with a troubling blankness in his gaze. "It's 'ow we foun' 'em, m'lord, sir."
Simon the Squire gulped audibly.
Alex stepped back, his heart in his throat. There was one thing he could do.
Sir Alexander looked to his squire. The boy was staring at the opened sacks, the anticipated odour forgotten.
"You know what to do, boy," the knight spat. "Fetch the lady Dunbroch."
The lady Dunbroch was no taller than Sir Alexander's chest, but her unbrushed mane of hair made her look particularly fearsome, as if she walked with her head aflame.
Alex had always had a healthy fear of the princess's temperament. Younger, he had wondered if she had fancied him, and had awkwardly attempted to court her with all the grace a squire of twelve could muster; he had nearly gotten an arrow through his eye for his efforts.
He had tried once more when the unwedded princess had taken the castle for herself two years hence, and recruited Alex as captain of her guards. His troubles were met by an icy glare, a raising of her bow, and a thinly veiled threat.
Presently she seemed to ready to make good on it.
"What," she growled, "requires me to be up so late?"
"There have been some disturbing tidings, my lady," Simon squeaked, almost in tears.
"I know that," she snapped. "I was talking to Sir Alexander here. What made ya send yer squalling babe to my chambers at this hour, Alexander?"
Alex dug his heels into the rushes to stop his knees shaking. There was something fiercely beautiful and utterly terrifying about the lady Dunbroch's anger. The dichotomy had drawn him to her in his youth and well into his knightship, but tonight he thought nothing of the former.
"The—the fishermen have found some corpses, my lady. They thought it correct to send for me only at this hour, without men listening in."
Merida's eyes narrowed. "Corpses? Of Scotsmen?"
"One bears – bore – the arms of clan Darryl on his chest, my lady."
"The broken lance?" Lady Dunbroch's anger had dissipated. "Where are these bodies?"
"In the courtyard, my—"
She pushed past him. "Have them brought to the great hall."
"What fresh hell is this?"
The lady circled the three corpses carefully, dagger drawn. She had her hair tied back with what looked like a rope of hemp; she had never cared for appearances, least of all at such ungodly hours.
She squatted next to the biggest one, which had more flesh on it than the others. The middling one was mostly bone where the flash had sloughed off.
Merida slid the tip of her dagger under the body's cloth and cut out a tatter. Holding it speared upon the blade, the princess examined it with the shrewd eyes of a village healer.
"This cloth has been burned," she announced. Alex squatted beside her as she offered him a look. "Can y'see the edges? The black bits?"
"I do, my lady." He glanced at the bodies again, with their odourless blackened flesh. "Did these men perish by fire?"
"That little one's a lass," the princess muttered absent-mindedly, scraping the blade on the stone floor to prise the cloth off.
She dug it into the blackened flesh itself, cutting carefully before withdrawing. A piece of blackened muscle slid off the shoulder and to the ground, revealing a thick line of white flesh tinged pink.
"My lady?" Alex tried not to look repulsed. Control yourself, you have seen much worse. "These men have been burned, have they not?"
"The skin says so, yes." Merida pointed with her wood-hilted dagger. "Do y'see where the skin has split open, where it has bubbled? This skin 'as been charred. But this?" She pointed to the exposed flesh on the shoulder. "Ever seen a good roast, sir? Burned meat does not look quite so…solid."
There was a queer fire in her blue eyes when she looked at him: excitement and fear and determination and a trace of resignation. "'Twas not fire that burned these good Scots, Sir Alexander Caitlin. Only ice can burn this bad."
"Ice?" Alex was stumped. "I understand how ice may be so cold it seems to burn, my lady, but this—"
"—is no ice you 'ave ever seen, sir." There was a sparkle dancing in her eyes; they looked too much like the ice she was talking about, like the ice across a shallow lake. "This is magic."
Simon and the fishermen stirred, muttering. The realm had not seen magic since the good queen Elinor had turned to woman from a bear before the eyes of the Great Lords and their soldiers and bannermen. Most dismissed it as wine-dreams, Alex's father one amongst them. 'They saw Mor'du, then they saw the queen, and they mistook the poor lass for the bear. She must be getting very old.'
"My lady," Alex whispered carefully. "How can that be? What…magic can do such…such a thing?"
To all surprise, Merida smiled. A crooked, bitter smile of determination, of a silent swear of vengeance.
"Ye do not see?" she snorted, a horrible, mirthless sound. "It's tha' bitch from Arendelle."
A/N: Okay, so there's only a passing mention of Elsa, but I'll get to Arendelle soon, promise. This fic is mainly an exercise on different ways of seeing things, of unreliable narrators and such. The characters are going to get a serious upgrade, none of your regular Disney innocence here, nuh uh.
Goodbye for now. Sleep well, for the night is dark and full of terrors.