A/N: A few who read Everything Comes With A Price asked for more angsty stories, so here's another. I hope it lives up to whatever expectations you may have. Also, expect a kind of good ending, not entirely happy, but good.
Not betaed, so any mistakes you see I ask of you as a young writer to point out and help me improve. Please? Also, I only planned to write around a 1,000 words, but then I lost count and got so deep into the story I ended up writing so much that now my butt's sore. Too much information?
And to BriannaTheStrange (if you didn't read my review) and any other person who has similar stories to mine, I don't mind it unless you got the idea from directly from my story. Still, I won't ask you to remove your stories. I would appreciate a little credit for the story idea though. Honestly, I don't care. It's too troublesome to to bother others for something like this. ;)
Feedback is appreciated. I hope you enjoy it.
The sun rose.
". . . Why?" She mumbled into coarse fur.
Sunlight touched their forms and flitted across the circle of stone pillars. The silence lapsed over them in solemn despair. She could faintly hear whispers of confusion, of panic and sympathy behind her.
She paid them no heed.
Tears stained the rich fur a darker color, leaving dark splotches on the bear's pelt. The tapestry fluttered uselessly to the ground, the bear having shrugged it off.
Dark eyes gazed at her, not that she could see with her face buried into the bundle of flesh and fur.
The days grew dull and their eyes listless. Laughter and merriment was no longer heard within the once happy kingdom. The very heart of their home was somehow shattered into minuscule pieces, strewn across the void of sorrow that had ensnared all of them.
The king went about his duties without complaints; anything to distract him from his loss. His large frame thinned and his complexion sallowed. His short red hair and beard grew tangled and greasy from days without care. His eyes lost all shine and seemed to have shrunk ever so slightly into his sockets, giving him a dead look. His voice birthed winter, sending chills down the spines of those he directed it at.
And the princess wept, locked within her room. No one could persuade her to come out. Even the king tried, to no avail. The door would only open when she wanted it too, and whenever that happened there was much commotion behind the door. They suspected that she had barred it from the inside with whatever she could, including the furniture. They came to this theory when they heard something heavy being dragged against the floor, almost reluctantly. Some servants would be disturbed by the sounds, shuffling away hurriedly to escape the noise.
The shadow, the shell of the princess would glide out of the room without so much as a sound. Scarce had she left the room when she had returned with whatever she had desired, the noise beginning again.
She didn't look healthy, either, from what they had observed. In fact, she looked fragile and sick.
Any attempts at conversation with the two were easily rebuffed, either by a silent door hiding damp eyes or a dark, emotionless glare, it did not matter.
Nothing mattered without the queen, nothing without the princes.
Unknown to all, hidden behind the door, was the tapestry. It was clasped between dainty fists, clutched to her bosom as she stared at the opposite wall. A fire flickered in the smoking hearth, wood crackling and splintering. A stone platter was on the floor, the remains of a grape-vine settled atop it. A mug had clattered across the floor long ago and settled itself against the cold, stone walls of her self-made prison.
Her eyes were unblinking, contemplating.
From how still she was, propped against the wall, one would think she were a doll.
And then she stood.
The sharp, jarring sounds of wood being dragged against the stone sent servants either scurrying off or peering at the door in concern, awaiting the sight of their no doubt haggard princess.
The door shuttered before being pried open. The princess turned before they could see her face and shut the large barrier that had repelled them for so long, before turning to greet them.
Her face was pale and her scarlet tresses lifeless. Lips chapped and bloody, they wondered if she bit them.
The thing that shocked them the most was her eyes and how skinny her arms looked. She was still wrapped up in that blue cloak, the same one that tailed after her like the end of a comet as she and her faithful steed sped to defy the rising of the sun to save the queen.
To save her mother.
But the sun had rose, and she had failed. Never had the daughter begun to hate the sun like she did then.
It had been over a fortnight since that day.
Her puffy red eyes, lined with a weary darkness, bore into them coldly, more frightening than her precision with an arrow.
Before they could shatter the paralyzing shock that locked their legs motionless the princess had already vanished down the corridor.
Even though they exchanged fearful, worried glances, they couldn't find the will to follow her.
They didn't notice she hid something within the fist of her hand.
Striding to the stables, the princess wasn't noticed in the stretching shadows that painted the ground in darkness. Dusk would soon begin.
Her steed greeted her happily, and she couldn't help but smile. "I'm sorry fer neglectin' ye Angus," she whispered, pressing her hand against his long snout.
Her hand lingered for a moment, sorrow swirling within blue depths like a whirlpool.
"I need yer help, Angus. I know I have no right after leavin' ye alone fer so long," she mournfully gazed into his eyes, and she knew he could understand her, somehow, "but please, please, help me. . ."
He snorted and nuzzled her. The princess took this as her being forgiven and grabbed his saddle. He nickered excitedly as she strapped it on, stayed only by her hand. She vaulted atop the saddle, finding comfort in the hard, polished leather after so long of self-inprisonment.
She gripped the reins and stirred Angus onwards, heels lightly thumping his sides.
They pelted out of the gates, down the trails, weaving around trees and jumping over undergrowth that attempted to halt their progress. Wind whipped passed her face and stung her eyes. She wished for the will o' the wisps to appear, if only to add the comfort of knowing she was going the correct way after so long of being tucked away in her room.
The thrill of riding freely no longer added elation to her mind, the recent events having dulled and diminished her emotions so much that she could only feel sorrow and guilt. She couldn't even find it in her to hate herself anymore.
After several hours─or was it minutes?─she came upon the loop of jagged pillars. Her eyes stung with tears when she saw them, the bears slowly making their way in the direction of the river. She shook off the urge to follow them. Her steed's iron-clad hooves drew their passing glances before they moved on.
They knew her. They knew she was no threat, that she was family.
But nothing more.
The cubs clumsily followed after their mother. Once their shadows faded the princess waited.
She waited, and she prayed, even as the sun fell beneath the tree-lined horizon and left her feeling a creeping hollowness.
Please, please take me to her! Show me the way! Her mind cried out desperately.
But no whispering lights of ghostly fire appeared. No childish voice urging her to so quietly follow met her ears.
She dismounted her black steed, patting his flank grimly.
"You can go if ye want, Angus. I'm goin' ta stay 'ere for as long as it takes." The horse merely cocked its head, tail strands swaying. The princess smiled.
"Yer a good friend. I wouldn' know wot ta do without ye."
And so it was that they waited. The princess prayed and the steed stood, a stalwart guardian watching over her.
Whatever light that remained was only provided by the moon. It shined luminescently in the sky, the sprinkled canvas of black depths and stars painting a beautiful picture. The light streamed through the trees and dancing shadows, and brightened the clearing of pillars they rested in. Mist rolled in, clinging to the soil and nearly obscuring the ground from view. She clutched her cloak tightly, trying to gain warmth within the cold hollowness that threatened to consume her.
"Please come to me, I need yer help! Take me to the Witch! Take me to her, please! . . . Please. . ."
With still no response, after hours of calling out in both her own voice and in her mind, she sunk to the ground weakly, her steed hovering over her. She began to weep. Her fingers dug furrows into the soil as her black steed whinnied uneasily, worriedly.
There was nothing he could do to stop his princess' sorrow.
Hours passed and her tears stopped flowing, having felt too drained to continue.
She wondered if her father would search for her? She dismissed that thought and resumed praying, albeit weakly. Weariness clung to her mind and her eyes drooped shut of their own accord repetitively. Her head was nodding from mental and emotional exhaustion. She couldn't remember when she last slept, only that it was over two nights ago. Or was it three days?
It mattered not, for soon she drifted off into a fitful sleep of bears and morbid versions of the song her mother use to sing.
She awoke to warmth. She felt the warm gusts of breath sweeping across her face and caused her red curls to flutter, tickling her face.
Her sleepy mind failed to comprehend that it was unusual to have a warm, breathing bundle of fur pressed against her back and weighing down on her legs. She jolted into wakefulness when she finally realized there were three tiny bearcubs curled up in her lap.
Her heartbeat quickened from the sudden shock and adrenaline coursing through her veins, before she realized . . . that they were her brothers.
Tears dotted the corner of her eyes and brought a stinging sensation upon them. She swiveled her head around, knowing what to expect but wanting visible confirmation.
And there she was. Her mother, the bear, offering her warmth as her dark eyes searched hers before closing.
She barely stifled a sob and couldn't restrain the urge to hug her. Her lips quivered and her eyes shut painfully tight.
The bear did nothing.
"I'm sorry. So, so, so sorry. . ." She finally cried softly, "I didn't mean for any of this ta happen . . . I just─I didn't want ta be married, and my selfishness go ye hurt like this!"
Still no reaction.
It hurt, it was much like the first time her mother threw her bow into the fire.
And soon, she heard it.
"Over heeere . . ."
She shivered and drew her head back from the bear. The bear stiffened, hearing them as well.
"Follow usss . . ." The little bobbing lights giggled, their heads resembling blue candle-flames. The ushered her with their fiery limbs to follow her, and she did.
Withdrawing herself from the pile of warmth that was her family of bears, she quickly hastened after it. She noticed Angus, who stood a ways back, begin to follow her. Together the followed the elusive spirits, the princess not even pausing to ponder if they would lead them to more trouble, whatever it may be. They led them in circles, winding around trees and twisting around trails.
"Come ooon, follow usss . . ."
Frustration grew when they were finally led to another opening. Her eyes flew wide open in anger.
They led her back to the stone ring!
Growling furiously, she was about to turn on her heel to search on her own when a voice stopped her.
"So, I assume you weren't happy with your purchase," she raised her head, meeting the eyes of the Witch, "seeing as you utterly destroyed my house!" her voice became slightly shrill and hoarse at the end, for good reason.
Finding herself the tiniest bit indignant, regardless of the circumstances, she protested, "Tha' wos an' accident, I swear. But ye are correct," she confirmed sullenly, looking at the ground in shame as she remembered her mother's eyes giving way to that of a instinctual beast. "I'm not happy."
The Witch scowled, and the princess made her way up, ascending the incline that led to the small woman and her dark shadow of a bird.
The old crone's cloying perfume stung her nose, but she gave no other reaction than the slight twitch of her nose.
She was dressed differently than before, expensive finery clinging to her hunched, shrivelled up frame; most likely from the payment she gave her.
"Can ye fix it? Please, I want them back! I'll even pay you for it," here, she exposed the coin she had taken from the kingdom before she left. It was identical to the one she gave to her in payment earlier.
"Nope, sorry; no refunds." The Witch drawled out, the cheer in her voice making it even more galling to hear.
The princess' face flashed with dismay, fury, and frustration. "Please! I'll give you anythin', just please turn them back!"
"You destroyed my house!"
"Ye didn't give me all tha' details!" The princess retorted angrily. "Why are ye so obsessed wit' turnin' people in ta' bears anyways? Surely there's another way?"
The Witch froze, before gaining a calculating look, as if she never thought of that before. Finally, she harumphed and folded her arms in annoyance.
"Fine, you daft girl."
Hope bloomed in her chest and she nearly smiled.
"But there is a price, you know. I never give anything away for free." The princess merely nodded, having expected this, and made a motion to give the coin to the Witch, only to recieve a firm shake of the head.
"I won't be needing that; not anymore, anyways." she grinned darkly. "The price for this is much more . . . demanding of you, than it is for me."
Having captured the princess' unconditional attention, she explained what she needed to change them back.
The band of warriors scoured the forests, searching for the pillars. After the princess vanished from the kingdom and the servants not finding her in her quarters─them actually being open─they set out in a flurry to find her. The king himself was leading the band, determined not to lose his only family left.
The light of the moon waned as dawn began to break through. They hurried their efforts, finding an odd sensation of dread settling in the pits of their stomachs.
"Mérida! Mérida, where are you!" The king roared desperately.
He stood still, eyes widening in shock.
"Follow usss . . ."
The light snickered softly, disturbing giggles unheard.
A will o' the wisp.
The queen awoke to the sun rising.
It worked? But then, if it worked, where was everyone? Where was Mérida and the tapestry? And . . . oh, where were her clothes?!
Her three sons stirred, yawning in union. They blinked blearily. She noted they were in all their glory as well.
She struggled to conceal herself before her sons.
". . . Elinor?"
She turned her head, tears springing to her eyes when she say her husband, the king, standing before the clearing, before her. He rushed over, sweeping her and the triplets in a fierce hug, regardless of her current lack of attire. She could hear him sobbing and she finally realized that he didn't look as healthy as he should have been.
How long had it been?
"How─when . . . I don' understand, ya didn' turn back when Mérida put tha tapestry on ya!" He bellowed in disbelief; and yet, there was overwhelming relief and happiness. Already he looked better, blue eyes shining brilliantly.
She was shocked. "It didn't work? But then, I don't understand Fergus . . ." she paused, trailing off. "Where's Mérida?"
He grew solemn, stepping back and relinquishing her from the tight hug. He silently draped her with his cloak, protecting her modesty as well as he could in front of his warriors. "I don' know. She wandered off yes'erday evenin', and we've been searchin' fer her fer several hours. The servants reported seein' her run out into tha forest with Angus."
The triplets suddenly tugged on her cloak, threatening to pull it off as they pointed.
They followed his oustretched digit and saw a wisp. It cooed at them and vanished, only to reappear several more feet away.
Exchanging looks that spoke more than words, they hurried after it.
They had followed, but what they had found almost made them wish they hadn't.
Horror erupted in their hearts, the princess' torn blue cloak draped across a branch, her dress in tatters and rags that were strewn about the ground. A shadow fell upon them and a bestial roar sounded out.
Familiar blue orbs, which were void of human emotion, gazed down at them. Paws adorned with reflective, terribly long claws hovered in the air as the maroon-colored bear stood on its hind legs.
The king rushed to shield his queen from the bear but she stopped him.
"No, no! Stop Fergus! It's Mérida, it has to be!"
And so he did.
The bear fell to all four paws, giving a huff. Rich reddish-brown fur shined as the bear strode over to her with heavy steps, before stopping when Elinor touched its forehead.
"Mérida, can you understand me? Please Mérida," tears splashed down her face.
The bear stayed silent.
There was no reaction.
The queen bowed her head in sorrow, the king fell in horror, and the triplets were enveloped in silence, not understanding anything besides the fact that their sister was now a bear, perhaps forever.
And then the bear jerked forward, nuzzling the mother with a soft grunt.
The queen raised her head, eyes moist, and met the princess' own whimsical blue orbs.
Teeth were bared in a crude version of a smile, and that was it all it took for her family to trap her in a hug. Relief showed on everyone's faces and tears of joy fell from glistening eyes.