The Ties That Bind: A Brave Fanfiction
Disclaimer: All characters are copy write to Pixar and Disney. Only the idea and some of the first names are mine.
Five years have passed since the time of last Highland Games and the clan leaders and their kin gather for another chance to make merriment, take vows, and face challenges. However, there is a dark cloud overhead. The storms of change and war echo in the distance and those few who have the strength and fortitude, find themselves thrown in the midst of a battle unlike any they've ever seen.
For now though, the talk of war and invaders are long put out of the minds of the people. They wish to rejoice in their grand harvests' and good weather and possibly, celebrate a new alliance between DunBroch and one of the other clans.
Merida, now a blossomed 20 years old, sits beside her window strumming her lute, as the rain falls. Though it is not her favorite pastime, she obeys her mother's wishes, for once, and doesn't go into the forest on this day. The lords and their heirs, as well as the mightiest of their clans, would be arriving today to once again compete in the Highland Games, as her father now called them. This time though, there would be no competition for her hand in marriage, although her mother insisted upon some interaction with the young lords while they were guests in DunBroch.
Merida sighed as she played,
"I just know mother will somehow turn this into a marriage competition again."
"Talking to yourself again Merida, dear?" Elinor asked as she walked into the bedroom.
Forcing a smile, Merida gritted,
"Oh no, not me Mum."
Elinor shook her head at her daughter but didn't call her on her earlier statement, which she had heard perfectly. She did, however, have a problem with Merida's posture at the moment. Slouched over, leaning at an awkward angle next to the window, Elinor cringed at the thought of what her back would look like years from now if she continued that way. Clearing her throat, Elinor caught Merida's attention,
"Merida, must you slouch and hunch like that? A proper young lady sits up straight, tall as a pine and…"
"…and just as prickly too" Merida added, muttering .
Glancing down at her bored and slightly peeved daughter, Elinor scolded,
"I heard that."
Wincing, Merida glanced sheepishly up at her mother,
"When do you not hear what I say Mum?"
Smiling softly, Elinor took Merida's hand and pulled her to her feet.
"Only…never." Elinor teased. Merida laughed as well. Her mother and she still didn't always see eye to eye on certain things, but both had learned to listen and compromise with one another.
"Come now, dear one, we must meet the lords and their sons down at the docks. They will be here in a short while and will be expecting the princess to greet them from their voyages. Especially difficult since they've fought this horrid weather the whole way here, no doubt."
Merida sighed, but followed willingly after her mother.
Normally, Merida would fight tooth and nail against anything that remotely smelled like a marriage or courtship arrangement. In this case, however, Elinor had asked weeks in advance for Merida to spend a little time with the lords and the young lords, as well. According to the letter's that they had received months earlier, many of the clan leaders would be bringing their whole families this time, and Merida, ever curious, wondered if any of the other lords had young daughters about her age that would be there. As the time of the games drew closer, Elinor kept dropping, not so subtle hints about Merida, maybe choosing a husband, to which Merida argued that she would not. Merida wanted to please her mother, but continued to reassure her that no amount of time spent with the young men would change her mind. Elinor would smile at her in a knowing and motherly way, like she knew something that Merida didn't know, and it was in those little moments that Merida secretly wondered if her mother had magic powers or a seer's vision for her to be so sure of the upcoming events.
In the days leading up to the other clans' arrival Merida trained and ventured farther into the forests. Her skill with archery was well above exemplary and her sword skill was almost as good as her father's. Almost. She still wasn't sure she could best any of the young lords in the sword competitions but she was always willing to try, if her mother allowed her that is.
The Queen herself hadn't considered stopping Merida from competing in the games, this time around, but thought it best she not encourage her either. After all, her husband was doing enough of that for the both of them. King Fergus couldn't have been prouder of his eldest child. He had taught her the bow and how to hold a sword, but her skill came from years of personal practice and training. Dedication, that he was sure, his beloved Queen wished their daughter showed in her other areas of study. Regardless, he was happy if his family was happy and safe, and other than his boys causing a ruckus everyday, life in DunBroch was happy and safe.
The entire royal family arrived at the docks just as the first clan's men were arriving into port. Lord Dingwall was the first to arrive and unload, followed closely by the MacIntosh clan. Surprisingly, the last clan to arrive was Lord MacGuffin's. He and his son and clan were several hours delayed by the rough water storms and the waiting party moved back into the castle proper to await their arrival. Merida thought it odd that they would be so far behind the other clans, but decided not to dwell on such matters. The clans that had arrived already and her family met in the main dining hall of Castle DunBroch to wait for the late arrivals. Around the turn of the evening hour, MacGuffin's clan still was not present and everyone was worried.
The storms had picked up outside and the heavy rain beat down on the solid stone walls. Loud booms of thunder and bright flashes of lighting caused the entire hall to fall silent. Suddenly, a loud crash, followed by a heavy boom from the main gates caused the entirety of those present to jump in their seats. Even poor Merida placed her hand over her rapidly beating heart. The MacGuffin clan walked into the main hall, soaked to their bones and looking like they had just come from a fearsome battle.
King Fergus hailed them inside and called for his servants to bring fresh towels and dry clothes for them. The other clan lords rushed to MacGuffin's side and began questioning him profusely.
"Where have you been?" Dingwall questioned first.
"Why didn't ye arrive with the rest of us?" MacIntosh quipped second, and many more questions followed overwhelming Lord MacGuffin and his son.
Finally Elinor stepped in,
"My lords, perhaps we should allow the MacGuffin clan a night to rest and recuperate before we question them to oblivion and back. They obviously have had a very trying day and the storms were not easy on any of those that traveled here in them. Right now, I think it would be best if the presentation of the warriors waits until the morrow. We will not be going anywhere and we are safe inside from the storms tonight."
Merida shook her head at her mother's ability to command and lead so easily. She understood now, why it took all of the work she had to endure with her studies, but her mother made it look as easy as breathing. She herself was a little curious as to why the MacGuffin was so late in arriving. She simply figured that they had harsher weather to contend with and that is why they look so weather worn. Her father had told her before that fighting a ship against the mightiest of gales and storms is just as exhausting as fighting a battle alone against a hundred men.
King Fergus called for his servants to set up sleeping arrangements for the other clans and to prepare sleeping chambers for the lords and their sons. Merida stood,
"Well, goodnight then, Mum, Da'" she said as she stretched her aching muscles. She turned to her brother's who were in the process of stealing yet another plate full of cakes from Maudie. Crossing her arms and shaking her head she took the cake plate from Maudie and used that as leverage to corral her little brothers up to their room.
As she was walking up the stairs, glanced down and caught the eye of the young MacGuffin lord, who stared with hard unfeeling eyes at her. Chilled by the look she had received, she shivered and hurried up the stairs to her chambers.
"That was odd." Merida mused to herself.
After making sure her brother's were tucked in, she hurried down to her own room. Confusion and questions circling in her head. The night itself had played out strangely but the young lord MacGuffin's attitude had been the oddest thing of the night. Thinking back on it Merida remembered that Lord MacGuffin had looked downcast as he and his clan was tended too. Merida assumed that was mostly from being tired, but there was also a hint of sadness in his eyes that she couldn't place. The young lord had a different air about him though. He was not the same shy young man that had been presented before her at the last Highland Games. Still mostly silent, but this time it was a hard silence, not like the shyness of his smile and contradictory to his stature. Now he held himself tall and his silence was contemplative,
"Almost like he was studying everyone." Merida said to herself out loud.
"Talking to yourself again, dear?" a voice pulled Merida from her thoughts.
Startled, Merida jumped and reached for the dagger under her pillow. She calmed when she saw that it was only her mother standing in her chamber doorway.
"(Sigh)Merida, how many times do I have to tell you that a lady does not sleep with weapons under her pillow."
At this Merida rolled her eyes,
"Well mum, when I finally marry (if ever) then my husband will have a weapon ready, until then I want to be able to protect myself."
Right as the Queen started to argue, Merida continued,
"What if something happened and we were attacked in the middle of the night or what if I was being targeted by invaders? I'm not sure if I yelled for help that it would arrive in time to save me and I'm very attached to my life here, thank you very much."
Now it was Elinor's turn to roll her eyes,
"Alright Merida, I concede this time. You bring up some very valid points, but…" the Queen paused, "you have that flair for the dramatic, just like your father. Almost to the point of going overboard."
Merida grinned sheepishly up at her mother. Scooting over on the bed, Merida made room so her mother could join her. The two sat in silence for a few moments until Elinor questioned her,
"It seems strange…the MacGuffin clan, I mean. All the clans have about the same distance to travel so it's curious to me on why the delay. Surely the weather would not have held them up too badly. What do you think, dear?"
Merida shrugged as she sat back against the head of the bed.
"I dunno mum. Seems a little off to me, but Lord McGuffin seemed sad and more than a little upset when they finally arrived….It may have been a fight with the storms but I have a feeling there is more to it than that."
Elinor proudly, yet softly smiled at Merida,
"The very same thoughts occurred to me too, Merida. You are learning how to read people well. That may be a very good advantage in the weeks ahead."
Merida sighed and rolled her eyes again,
"Mother, I thought you said these games were not about me being wedded off?"
"They're not dear."
"Then, why do you insist that I spend so much time with the young lords, eh? Trust me, Mum, NO amount of time spent near, or with, those three, will magically elicit any kind of hidden emotions in me."
Elinor rose a finger to interject, but Merida never stopped,
"Seriously Mum, there can't be something hidden, when there isn't something there to begin with." Merida crossed her arms in a huff.
Elinor bowed her head and gave a long drawn out sigh. Shaking her head slightly, she stood and made her way over to the door to Merida's chambers. Stopping in the doorway she turned to look at her eldest child. Merida was a beautiful, fiery young woman, and as stubborn as her father, but she had a lot more to learn when it came to love and marriage. Merida's reasons were not currently unfounded, but they were untested and that was what Elinor was really trying to do.
Merida gave her mom a confused look after Elinor didn't say anything for about a minute of silent staring. Silence didn't bother Merida, it was being stared at that bothered her.
Elinor was pulled from her thoughts by the object of those very thoughts in front of her. Smiling soft and sadly, Elinor spoke,
"Merida, one day you will find love. It may not drop into your lap, it may not 'feel' right at first. In fact, you may hate that very person that you may eventually come to love. But whatever, however, and whoever you love, know and remember this, dear one: True love is based on compromise and balance. You will not always be happy, you will not always 'feel' like you love the person you are with, but if you had to, you would die for that person and do everything in your power to keep them happy and safe, and you know that, more than anything else, that the one you love would do the very same for you."
Merida sat there in silence absorbing all that her mother had just told her. The air in her room was thick and heavy now and it bothered her. Merida and serious weren't exactly two words that worked well together. Trying to lighten the mood, Merida chortled,
"Well, mum, thanks for all that. I'll be sure to file that away and lock it up for safe keeping."
Elinor shook head again and turned to go but stopped short again, one last thing on her mind before retiring to bed.
"One last thing Merida, marriage is a binding contract that ties you to another person for life, but love…love binds us together for far longer than this life will last." With that the queen turned and quietly closed her daughters bed chamber door and walked to her chambers down the hall.
Merida sat up in her bed and hugged her knees tightly. Her mother was speaking in riddles and waxing poetic now and that was something Merida couldn't fight against. Her mother always made sense when she was speaking from the heart because Merida thought that was the only time her mother was truly honest with her. She did love her mother dearly, but even after the whole Bear incident five years earlier, Merida and her mother would still find themselves at odds with the other. Maybe there was no way around it.
Merida had always been taught the rules and traditions of being a Lady and a Princess from her mother, but her dad had always taught her to never fear the unknown, how to fight and shoot a bow, and they frequently shared inside jokes and humor that her mother found deplorable. It was as if her whole life she had to internally and externally prove who and what she was to everyone and even herself. She was divided.
Was she the Princess Merida, a Lady of noble birth, born to the family DunBroch? Or was she the free spirit Merida, tested and tried in the wilds of the Scottish forests, called upon by the Wisps to change her fate?
As she pondered these things, her eyes began to droop. Contemplation of such heavy matters would have to wait until later. For right now, she needed to rest for the presentation of the suit….warriors tomorrow and then the kick off of the games.
Merida laid her head down on her pillow and closed her eyes. However, as she did the young lord MacGuffin's hard eyes came back into her mind. Cold and unfeeling, they stared her down as she walked up the staircase. She had never paid much attention to any of the would-be-suitors when they were here five years ago, but she remembered his posture and attitude the entire time.
The largest, physically, of the suitors, MacGuffin Jr. had about the same stature as her dad, but he lacked the confidence and leadership her father had so that made him appear smaller than he actually was.
'Tonight, though, looking into his eyes, chilled me to the bone. He looked so hard and stern, not the wee, timid bairne he had been those years ago. Maybe, he's seen even more battles since and they have forced him to mature.'
Angry with herself for not being able to go to sleep and unfairly angry at the young lord MacGuffin for being the reason for her lack of sleep, she sat up forcefully in bed and groaned.
"Aahhgghh! Merida, get a hold of yourself, you need your sleep and this isn't getting you any closer to answers, just more questions! And why is this even important?" she ranted.
"Maybe, he was angry that they had to travel in bad weather? Maybe he hadn't wanted to come and his father made him?" Merida argued with herself.
" Maybe, maybe…maybe it had nothing to do with me and I just caught his gaze at a bad time." She whispered quietly to herself.
Finally she had calmed herself down enough that she was able to lay in bed and force her thoughts away from tomorrow and the young MacGuffin lord for a short while.
'Maybe I should talk to mum about this tomorrow?' she thought as she drifted off to sleep. Her last thought before sleep took her,
'Better not, don't need her getting any strange idea's in her head.'