A Merry War
Disclaimer: I am not BRAVE enough to claim that I own Merida, the Suitors, or anyone else.
Summary in Brief: The Macintoshes are not the only family in Scotland whose temper is the stuff of legend. Young Macintosh/ OFC. Rated for Language and Adult Themes.
Summary in Full: The fates of not only Merida, but also Young MacGuffin, Young Macintosh, and Wee Dingwall were all changed the day it was decided that they should marry for love rather than politics.
The Macintoshes are not the only family in Scotland whose temper is the stuff of legend.
They say clan Brolchain is cursed. That when they allow their emotions to get the better of them more than their tempers is let loose. And once the heavens open there is no controlling the tempest. Rosalyn Brolchain was raised to be mindful of her temper and reserved with her emotions. Winter winds, ice and snow rise when her temper flairs. Hers is a cold fury. Out of her four sisters Rosalyn is the most in control. Unless Dougal Macintosh is concerned, then she is as raw as the winds she conjures.
Author's note: This story is partially inspired by two of my favorite works – Much Ado about Nothing and Pride and Prejudice. Because I love both of these stories so much I could not help but include some of my favorite sense and pieces in this story. So if the dialogue is particularly witty it is probably not mine but instead the property of either Ms. Austen or the Bard. It is also influenced by the delightfully trashy romance novel To Scotland, with Love by Karen Hawkins. So again, if it seems clever or like a good idea it probably isn't mine!
It's been said before and it will be said again, but there is no better way to put it; heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. And when that fury is already herself cursed, well, wee ones; there is no force in that can control what will happen.
~ Nana Calleigh to her granddaughters on a cold evening in the Castle Dunbroch
"According to this letter." Laird Brolchain began, struggling to make himself heard over the clatter of dishes and giggles of gossip that was his breakfast table. "According to this letter Lord Macintosh and our clansmen are to return tonight… This includes Young Macintosh, does it not?" Suddenly the room fell silent. Four pairs of eyes in unison turned to stare at their father. Laird Brolchain smiled wryly and turned his attention to the messenger beside him. The young man shifted slightly under the scrutiny of the room, his face flushing beneath his blue paint.
"Yes, both Lords Macintosh along with their clansmen will be returning this eve, when I learned of this they were but nine miles from the harbor."
"And what of the Games?" the Laird asked, laying aside the missive to study the messenger. Thomas Brolchain had been Lord Macintosh's second in the great war, he was now second in the Lord's land, in charge when Lord Macintosh was away ( and sometimes when he was not), his reward for faithful service.
"It was a narrow defeat to Clan MacGuffin; we lost by but two metals, an improvement of six from the last Games."
"A loss is still a loss, but what of the major contest? Who won the Princess' hand?" The messenger now was truly uncomfortable. He shifted side to side, rocking on his feet, fingering the hem of his sash.
"The Princess did milord."
"What?!" Six voices in unison questioned. The messenger flinched.
"I-I do not know all the details yet, milord, but from what I understand the rules of the competition simply state that only the first born of the clan is eligible to participate. The Princess Merida is the first born of her family. She shot for her own hand in the archery contest and won, she split the wee Lord Dingwall's arrow right down the middle. She won." Across the table Thomas' eyes found his wife's gaze, her dark brows raised so high they almost disappeared into her hair. The princess had won her own betrothal?
"But who will marry the princess?" he pressed.
"I do not know sir; I have not heard the verdict. The last I knew The Princess and the Queen had exiled themselves until a decision could be reached. Of the three suitors Ennis Dingwall's arrow hit the bull's eye but Princess Merida won the contest."
"So Dougal lost?"
"Dougal is not betrothed?"
"Dougal is still single? He can marry me then!"
"He wouldn't marry you! He will marry me for I am certainly prettier than you!"
The silence of the room was lost as the four younger daughters of Brolchain began to argue amongst themselves, having worked out that if the Princess and Lord Dingwall's son had won the Betrothal contest the handsome son of Lord Macintosh was still on the marriage market. The squealing was nearly too much for the hounds at his feet, they whined and looked at him with mournful eyes. Thomas was inclined to agree with them.
"And how did Young Lord Montonto take such failure?"1 Through the din of high pitched praise the scathing question cut like a sword. Thomas turned to his eldest daughter who had posed the question. She was scowling at her younger siblings and their love of the Lord's heir. Lord Brolchain loved all five of his daughters equally, but it was with his eldest, Rosalyn, that he truly identified. Even when they did not agree he could understand her point of view, except in one thing, her overwhelming distaste for Dougal Macintosh.
"Rosalyn!" he scolded, grey eyes narrowing, jaw firmly set. It was bad enough that whenever she was near the young Lord she could not keep her tongue; she did not need to be contemptuous in the presence of strangers. "You tax Young Macintosh too much and it is far from becoming of a lady." Rosalyn returned his gaze with a matching one, meeting his steel eye with her own.
"He shot well, milady, he did the clan proud and performed admirably in the games." The messenger said standing a little taller until Rosalyn's withering eye turned on him.
"He was given a stage; my Lord Macintosh has always been a performer."
"And an excellent athlete, Lady."
"An athlete to a lady? What is he to a Lord I wonder?" Thomas sighed heavily and tried to interrupt what was quickly dissolving into an argument. Rosalyn was in one of her moods and was not willing it seemed to capitulate. Neither was the messenger.
"He is a lord to a lord, a man to a man, and stuffed with all honorable virtues." He replied.
"Aye yes, he is no less than a stuffed man."
"Rosalyn! Enough!" Thomas said firmly, his nostrils flaring. Rosalyn pursed her lips. "You must not mistake my daughter, and take her words the wrong way. There is a kind of merry war betwixt young Dougal and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them."
"And I always win!" Rosalyn added haughtily. His fierce look had only bought a moment of silence out of his eldest child. "In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one."
"I can see plainly that you have no love for the young Lord."
"Rosalyn, please." Rhiannon tried, but the girl paid no more attention to her mother than she had her father.
"If he were in my books I would burn my study."
"You will never admit his beauty or give into his charm, will you sister?" Fiona teased snidely.
"Not until a hot January!" Rosalyn declared, tossing her napkin onto the table and standing tautly.
"Not even then! Ros doesn't even like men," Ina added with a cackle, "she only likes her books!" Rosalyn turned from the table so quickly her skirt snapped behind her. As she retreated from the breakfast room she could hear the chorus of giggles from her sisters, the angered call of her name by their mother, and the apology her father was making to the poor messenger boy forced to witness his family's dysfunction. She did not slow her pace until she was in her room again, the large door shut firmly behind her.
Rosalyn dropped herself onto her bed with an exaggerated sigh. Dougal Macintosh this and Dougal Macintosh that. Dougal, Dougal, Dougal! It would be one ring of hell if it were just her vacant sisters who were obsessed with the Laird, but it was the whole leeward side of the Isle. Everyone was enamored with him – and he knew it! Worst of all, he was more than aware of the praise lavished upon his undeserving head and he basked in it. The arrogant, selfish, irascible fool.
They only saw the handsome, athletic, only son of the Lord and they all fell in love with that gilded rendering. Never once looking beyond and seeing what a truly rotten brat he was. Rosalyn seethed. If only they knew how highly he thought of himself and how lowly he regarded everyone else.
Her? Sean, I've not had enough to drink to even consider dancing with her.
Rosalyn exhaled slowly, her dark eyes closed. He'd spent the rest of the evening in a goblet of mead, his hands roaming over every hill and valley of each dance partner, one more vacuous than the next. Each hoping to be the 'lucky lady' to lay the laird.
"Rosalyn!" Her mother's voice was shrill and grating from the other side of the door. "Rosalyn!"
"Yes?" She sighed loudly.
"Open this door, Rosalyn!" Pinching the bridge of her nose, she shuffled slowly across the room.
"Yes, Mamma." She muttered, opening the door.
Rhiannon Brolchain swept into her eldest child's room with the force of a thunderstorm. Her grey eyes crackled with lightning as she regarded her wayward daughter.
"What were you thinking?" She asked sharply. "Your abuses in this home are one thing, but your bitterness has gotten away from you. It is an ugly thing and unbecoming and horribly inappropriate. I will not tolerate it. You will learn to hold your tongue and keep your peace." Rosalyn met her mother's gaze and saw the pure force of will there. Arguing would do no good. She bowed her head slightly.
"Yes, Mamma." She said quietly.
"In honor of the athletes and the Lords' return a feast will be held in seven days' time. You will attend." Rosalyn's dark head shot up to protest, her bow mouth falling open. Rhiannon's gaze kept her silent. "You will attend and you will represent our family. I mean this Rosalyn. You will go and you will be on your best behavior and on behalf of your father, sisters, and me you will pay court to the Lord and his son."
"Mother!" Rosalyn gasped, no less appalled than if her mother had informed her she were to eat a live snake. "Mother, really, you don't mean that. Last time you forced me in his presence it sleeted for three days straight!" Rosalyn protested, but her mother was firm.
"You are a woman now, dear, it is high time you began behaving like an adult. And that includes holding your tongue around those you dislike and minding your temper. Now there is a week until the festivities, I suggest you take the time and get used to the idea of civility." Rhiannon patted her daughter's cheek and kissed her forehead, as if she'd not handed down such a cruel and unusual punishment. And with that she left her eldest girl alone in her room again.
Rosalyn flopped back down onto her bed. Mind her temper? She'd been minding her temper since she had the mind to mind. Bloody weather curse. Controlling ones emotions was the proper thing to do, but it was even more important when a single outburst could cause floods or fires.
It was yet another reason she disliked young Macintosh. Where she had been told from since birth to keep her emotions in check, her feelings at bay and her over all disposition as neutral as possible, Dougal was allowed to hem and haw, scream and cry over any and every little thing. It wasn't fair.
She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and lay back across her bed. She stared up at the ceiling, counting the rings in the low wooden beams and listening to her sisters' gossip ringing down the hall.
"She is so self-endeared."
"She has to be! She endears herself to no one else!"
Her? Sean, I've not had enough to drink to even consider dancing with her.
1 Montonto is both a reference to Much Ado About Nothing, in that Beatrice refers to Benedick as Signor Montonto in the first scene of the first act, it is also a fencing term referring to the upward motion of a sword. Thus it is fitting in the inspiration of this fiction being Shakespeare and that Young Macintosh had a thing for his sword.