Summary: Queen Elinor was determined that her daughter have everything that she never did. Raised a Lady, given everything she needed, a choice in marriage. It didn't' turn out quite the way she expected.
TO BE A LADY
My parents were ambitious, but I was not raised to be a Lady.
I was beautiful, and strong enough that I would likely survive multiple births, and that is what many men looked for in a wife. I was betrothed, and saw those betrothals broken, several times before I caught Fergus's attention, but I was not raised to be a Lady.
When Fergus asked to court me, my parents were thrilled, heedless of my happiness or suitability. I love my husband, and I love that he does not try to control every little thing that I do, but I know that I was not ready to be a Chieftain's wife, let alone ready to be a queen.
I worked hard in the months of our betrothal, doing my best to become what my future subjects would expect of a queen, but I know that it took a long time before I was truly accepted as worthy. I love Fergus with all of my heart, and I know he loves me, and we complete each other, but those first years were difficult, as far as public opinion went.
I loved Merida from the moment she opened her eyes, and Fergus did not care whether his first-born was a boy or a girl – Merida would always be the jewel of his heart – and the Chieftains were happy for a girl who could one day be married to one of their sons, but I know that many in the Kingdom were unhappy that I had not given them a male heir.
Merida was five when I gave birth to another girl, who did not live past a few months, and eight when I gave birth to a son, whose life was measured in days.
I am not blind to the fact that many asked Fergus to set me aside for another, perhaps younger wife, who would give Fergus, and our Kingdom, a son to rule after him.
That was part of why I pressed Merida so hard to become a Lady, an Heiress that any of our subjects would be happy to see as a queen.
Merida was fourteen when the triplets were born, somewhat spoiled from the moment they drew breath, and perhaps I should have let her free from constantly training her, but by then, I did not know how to relate to her any other way, except to teach her so that she would have all the advantages that I did not, so that she could continue to keep the peace that was so very absent before she was born.
I wanted the best for my daughter, but in trying so hard to achieve that, I pushed her away.
Merida has her father's free spirit, but it was coupled with my determination and willpower. It takes a lot to make either of us loose our temper, but when we do, it is spectacular.
When Merida stood to shoot for her own hand, my mind went blank. Had she remembered nothing of the history I had taught her, of the war-torn days before we finally united under Fergus's banner? Five of my betrothals had been broken because my intended had been killed in battle before we could wed! Now Merida's desire not to marry had endangered the peace we had worked so hard for, and she didn't care!
Of course I wanted her to be happy! Why else would I stand before our court and lie my head off that the princess was to choose the competition, when much of the time the only competitions were in celebration of who the princess was betrothed to, upon her parents' choice. Why else would I have worked so hard to convince the Lords for a long betrothal, so that they could get to know each other? Why else, in the end, would I mime a speech deciding to throw tradition to the wind and choose with her heart, even when we could see that the throne room was two insults away from open war?
But in the moment when I dragged her back to her room, all I could think of was how her love of weapons and desire for freedom would doom us all.
I would never tell Merida how much it hurt when she shouted that I was a monster, that she would rather die than be like me, when her sword rent the tapestry that I had worked on every night for two years.
"I want Papa!" had been shouted many times over the years when we quarrelled, Merida knowing that while Fergus would not let her out of lessons, he would do something 'fun' with her afterward, but never had Merida shouted that she hated me.
I should not have thrown her bow into the fire, no matter how angry I was, but I only realized what I had done when Merida's eyes filled with tears and she ran out of the room. I instantly pulled it out of the fire again, but the damage was done, as was the damage to my relationship with my beloved daughter.
The guilt and fear did not lessen, but only grew, when I found a servant picking themselves up from being knocked down in Merida's flight from the Keep. I spent hours worrying about her. Where was she? Was she safe? Would she come home? How could I bear it if she hurt herself because she was too angry to care about the risks?
I had never been so relieved as when I walked into the kitchen to get supplies to start my own search party and saw Merida there, arranging a small plate. It stung my heart when she looked so surprised when I expressed my worry and my relief that she was home safe, so I pushed past it to less emotional matters. Merida had made a cake as a peace offering between us, so the least I could do was put aside our fight until we had time to cool down.
Another thing I would never tell Merida was the storm of emotion when I discovered that she had gone to a Witch for a spell that would change me. Not just change me, but change me into a bear!
Had the bond between us truly been damaged that much?
I snatched my daughter out of the way when her panic drew her to throw bottle after jar after phial into the cauldron, finally causing an explosion. For a moment, I was almost thankful that I was a bear, large and durable enough to shield us both, though I would have tried to shelter her even if I was still human.
I could not think. I needed to rest for a moment, to process all that had happened, to decide a course of action. I could not do so while looking at Merida try to pretend that everything was all right.
Turning away from her, I tried not to notice my daughter's lost expression and forced my mind to sleep.
Some routines are ingrained, and after near to twenty years, my early-morning one was no exception. Getting up quietly to let Fergus sleep a little longer – my love was not a morning person – was first. Brushing my hair and dressing was not an issue, obviously, and making sure that the servants were up and moving and breakfast was on the way before I went to wake Merida and the triplets.
Hm, bread, eggs and oatmeal were out of the question, obviously, but surely I could find some fruit or berries around here. Some flat rocks would make acceptable plates, there were twigs for knife and fork, and there would be something to hold water for drinking… I might be a bear, but I could still do this.
…except that I couldn't. What I thought were blueberries turned out to be nightshade, the water was stagnant, and I had no idea how to get anything else.
I wasn't even upset when Merida laughed, before leading me to the river to catch fish with her arrows. Maybe knowing her way around a weapon was not so bad, after all.
I found myself enjoying splashing in the water, my crown on a rock nearby, far removed from anything that a Lady would be doing, and perhaps closer to Merida than I had been in far too long. The realization struck me like thunder, and I remembered that we had to find the witch, or some other way to change me back. It would take too long if I tried to stumble along on two paws, instead of four, but the moment I dropped onto all fours, a change came over me.
My human mind, the part of me that was Queen Elinor, was shoved aside, taken over by something primal and savage. Merida came up from behind, and I did not see her as my daughter, but as a hunter holding a bow and arrows. I growled, threatening her to stay away, and there was no way to take it back, no way to forget the fear in her eyes.
It was over in less than a minute, but Merida was wary, and I fled
I could not help feeling impatient, but also pleased that Merida had remembered at least something that I taught her. The legend of the king and his four sons was not entirely myth. My ambitious parents had made sure to keep careful track of who was descended from whom, and had reminded me so many times that it was impossible to forget.
Fergus was descended from the King's one daughter, unspoken of, but still as real as her brothers. The other three sons were the ancestors of the Dingwall, MacIntosh and MacGuffin Clans. I myself was descended from the fourth son's daughter, born before the king's death and the split of the brothers.
But fear for my daughter was not the only thing that filled me with terror. Mor'du had once been a proud, brave prince, but now he was reduced to a wild, savage creature, nothing more than a wild bear.
If the curse was not broken, was that what I would become?
I feared so when I lost myself the second time, attacking not only my daughter, but also my husband, when my wild attitude led him to mistake me for Mor'du. The worst of it was that I had heard his panicked voice calling for me, no doubt having discovered the bedchamber I had accidentally ruined upon my original transformation.
Again, I came to myself in horror of what I had done, and again I fled, but this time from a greater danger.
Fergus's biggest reason for hating Mor'du was not the loss of his leg, but the sight of the massive bear charging at Merida and I. Not knowing that I was not Mor'du, thinking that I was responsible for the death or disappearance of his wife and queen, Fergus would try his considerable best to kill me. If I could get to the place where Mor'du had chased us, if I could lead Fergus and the warriors of the Clans, then I could prove that I was not he, and we could find a solution before the sun rose.
But I underestimated the lengths to which Fergus's grief would drive him.
They caught up with me just as I reached the stone circle, and I looked up at Fergus, praying that he would see me in my eyes. When it was clear that he did not, I found myself praying that I did not revert to my human form in death, because I knew that such knowledge, if it came too late, would destroy him.
I was saved by Merida shooting the sword out of her father's hand, and the timely arrival of the real Mor'du.
Again, the mind of the bear overtook the mind of the woman, but this one time, it was a good thing. The primal instincts of a mother defending her family, coupled with the strength of a bear, unclouded by a queen's rational mind, managed to hold Mor'du off, until a menhir, shaken by our battle, finally crushed him, releasing the spirit that had been trapped for so long.
I gazed, finally, into the face of my ancestor, whose choice to change his fate had led to this day. I don't know if his nod of acknowledgement and respect was for me or for Merida, but I didn't care.
The sun, the second sunrise since the spell was cast, was creeping over the hills, and I was still a bear.
Some part of me was reluctant to become Queen Elinor again. The mind of a bear was a simple one, free of negotiation, of duty, of the pain from complex human emotions. It was easier to remain a bear than to go back and face the reality that my husband had almost killed me, even if he didn't know that it was me, the reality that my daughter was responsible for the whole mess, the reality that I had attacked the people I loved most because I could not control myself and lashed out in fear.
But Merida was before me, weeping. Fergus stood nearby, his face sad and fearful, two emotions that I had very rarely seen on him. Three tiny bear-cubs stood between them, making pitiful yowling sounds. All of them looking to me to make things right again.
Why was it, even though I was under the thrall of a curse, I was still the one comforting people?
The part of me that was wife and mother, above all else, reached out as the sun hit the stone circle, and suddenly I was very glad that the tapestry was so large.
Of course, even if my dress had remained with me, it would have been torn to shreds, but really! I was stuck kneeling on the dew-damp grass, naked as a babe, while half the court stared.
In some ways, I suppose it was a good thing. Being unable to speak with words forced me to communicate with Merida through other means, and forced her to learn to listen beyond words. I grew to appreciate her skills, and for perhaps the first time, Merida began to see all that I truly did, even if my deeds were not worthy of song.
Merida would still have to marry at some point, but she was a bit more reconciled to the idea, rather than viewing it as the end of the world, now that she and the Lord's sons could get to know each other and make their own choice.
A/N: I wanted to look at things from Elinor's side, since I think that she is the kind of character whose complex nature we never fully see. It was inspired by the line "To have everything that we never could", when Merida and Elinor were having their 'imaginary talk', which got me thinking. What drove Elinor to be so obsessed with Merida being a lady? From that, I went beyond to explore what Elinor must have went through. There are times when words hurt more than actions, and some of the things that Merida said must have hurt her mother.
Anyway, I hope you like, and feel free to check out my other 'Brave' fics.