It was dark outside castle DunBroch and the moon was now high in the sky. Down in the Scottish highlands below, the world was quiet and the final lanterns in the village had long been blown out. It was equally quiet inside the castle. Nothing stirred within its ancient stone walls, and the halls that usually bustled with servants and guards were all sleeping. But it wasn't just servants and guards that slept…
Inside a large room were Queen Elinor and King Fergus, sleeping soundly. Well, at least one of them was…
Elinor laid on her side in the darkness beside her snoring husband. Her eyes were shut, but she was just barely asleep. Her breathing was slow and the covers rose and fell very softly with each inhale and exhale. It had taken her a bit of time to fall asleep earlier that night due to the fact that she was still sore all over. The reason behind this was that she'd finally given birth to her daughter, Princess Merida. Feisty and impetuous right from the beginning, Elinor had been tending tirelessly to the fiery child that was now but a few weeks old. Maids and servants would constantly come to Elinor's side, asking if she needed any assistance. More often than not, she would decline, saying how she had everything under control. Sometimes this was her response because it was true. Other times it was because she was too proud to admit needing help with the girl. But it was usually so that she was able to spend time with her precious baby. Elinor admired the child's ferocity and uniqueness and was more than proud to call Merida her own.
But sometimes it was all too exhausting. After finally setting Merida down to sleep in her crib following a long day and more than half the night of tending to her, the queen had crawled into bed and lay there stiffly. She didn't fall asleep, for she half-expected to be woken up at any moment and run back to her motherly duties, but when she heard nothing for several minutes she managed to drift away to a light sleep.
Then there it was.
The shrill cry of an infant rang in her ears. Elinor's big brown eyes fluttered open and she promptly sat up with an expression of worry on her face. She glanced down at Fergus and saw that the king was still fast asleep. Without even bothering to wake him, Elinor came out of bed quickly, holding up her nightgown slightly so that it didn't drag against the ground. She lit a candle and ran across the large room to where Merida had been placed in her crib.
Elinor quickly set the candle down on table by the crib and peered inside. There was the tiny princess, crying pitifully at the bottom. Her eyes were squinted shut, her arms and legs were in a bunch as she lay on her back, and her mass of red-orange hair spilled onto her tiny shoulders. The way she squirmed about and sobbed broke Elinor's heart. "Shhh, shhh, noooo…" she whispered as she leaned over the railing, reaching a finger down inside. "Hush, darling, there's no need to cry…"
Merida, oblivious to her mother's presence, reached her hand up in her squirming and found Elinor's finger. Instinctively, she grabbed it tightly in her tiny hand, but continued weeping.
The queen made a sympathetic and worried face. "Shhh…" Elinor cooed softly as she now reached in both hands, scooping the tiny princess up while supporting her head and back. "Mommy's here. I'm here,"
Whimpering with her eyes still shut, Merida clung to Elinor's gown with her tiny hands as she was brought close to her mother. "Mmmmmuuuu…" she half-sobbed as her clumsy fingers dug into the fabric of the nightgown, seeking comfort.
Elinor smiled tenderly as she cradled the child. "There, that's it. See? There's no need to cry." Her formerly concerned gaze was now soft and calm. "My dear Merida, everythin' is alright…"
For the first time in the few minutes she had started crying, Merida opened her big blue eyes slowly. They were a light red and small tears slipped out the side as she stared ahead at her mother's dress through a half-squinted gaze. "Mmmmuuuuuhhh…" she muttered quietly as her face pressed against the queen's chest and her lip trembled slightly. Finally, her gaze slowly drifted up to her mother's gentle face. She lay there silently in her mother's arms for a moment and stared curiously into Elinor's eyes as if she was not exactly sure what to think. Merida stayed silent for several moments with her questioning eyes reading her mother's expression carefully and with wonder. Finally, a smile formed on the baby's face and she shrieked with delight while raising her hands up to Elinor, making amusing grabbing motions.
The queen chuckled warmly as she looked down at the tiny princess. "You're too adorable for your own good, you know that?" She brought Merida up a bit more and kissed her delicately on the forehead, which resulted in a yelp of joy from the redhead. "Such a wee lamb," she cooed affectionately as she began to slowly rock the infant from side to side.
Elinor gradually walked about the room and began to softly sing a little lullaby. Merida smiled and reached up in an attempt to try and bat at her mother's nose, but when it came to no avail, she settled for gently grasping a long tendril of the queen's long hair as she looked up with gentle awe. The lullaby itself was soft and comforting. It gently echoed out from Elinor and wrapped itself around the two of them. It calmed the air and comforted the little girl. When the lullaby began to come to a close, Merida's previously big eyes were now slowly starting to shut. They still gazed up into her mother's own eyes and her eyelids fluttered, as if she was trying to force herself to stay awake in order to keep looking upward at the calming face of her mother and listen to the peaceful song.
Finally the last note of the lullaby was sung. Now finished, Elinor stood in silence, smiling warmly as Merida's eyes eventually closed while her little hand undid itself from her brown hair and fell down to her tiny side. Elinor then used one of her fingers to gently tuck the infant's hand away before walking steadily back towards the corner of the bedroom where the crib was. As she approached the side of the crib, the queen gently caressed the now-sleeping child's face. A tender smile formed on her face and she lowered Merida down into the crib, exhaling gently as she finally touched the cushioned bottom. Her hands carefully moved out from under Merida and she set them on the railing.
She was there for a few long moments. She simply admired the sleeping, peaceful bundle that was her new daughter. Just the sight of the little redhead made her smile with delight and her heart flutter. Slowly, Elinor then bent her head in and tenderly placed a motherly kiss on her cheek. "Sleep well, my dearest Merida."